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Sarfraz Ahmed, even without being part of the playing XI, was the talking point last time Pakistan played South Africa in an ODI. Everyone wanted him to be in the XI. Drop anybody to bring him in. He did come in the XI and scored a crucial 49, opening the batting with Ahmed Shehzad. More than two years later, he is once again the talking point.
The Pakistan wicket-keeper, who did not find a place in the side in 2015, is now the captain leading the team in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. On Wednesday, they face South Africa in Birmingham and he is under the scanner for his captaincy after they lost their first game against India by 124 runs. But, Sarfraz is optimistic that with time he will learn and it was just an unlucky day against India as some of the younger players, playing for the first time against India, failed to toughen up.
“Jab time bura aata hai to cheezein kharab dikhti hai. As a captain I am confident and the team is motivated. We told players in the team meeting that there is no need to take pressure on their game. We hope that the team will bounce back in the tournament. There were some mistakes (against India) and we accept. May be I will learn with time. The scenario against India needed a pacer to bowl but we had planned to bowl spinner. But, in future, if there is similar situation in the future we will use a fast bowler,” he said.
“It’s India-Pakistan match. It’s a pressure match. The four-five players who were playing against India for the first time may have been under pressure. But, we have tried to make them feel normal. The mood in the camp is nice. We discussed that thing after the game as well. The next two games are very important and we are hopeful we will play well.
Out of the two games, they face South Africa first. Pakistan had beaten them by 29 runs (D/L) in the World Cup match at Eden Park. Back then, the bowlers defend a low total. Things have changed since then. Pakistan bowling doesn’t bear the look of old and it South Africa who have the world number one bowler in their ranks. Sarfraz, however, is ready to face Kagiso Rabada.
“We haven’t played against them in a long time. Whenever we play against any team, we go in with a lot of planning. Rabada is bowling well and he is the world number one bowler but we have watched his videos and we will try play accordingly,” he said.
Things have not gone according to plan for Pakistan so far in this tournament. They were forced to replace Wahab Riaz after he injured himself in the game against Pakistan. And Sarfraz said that Fakhar Zaman will open the batting in lace of Ahmed Shehzad.
“We have made two changes. Mohammad Amir is doing fine. But, Ahmed Shehzad and Wahab Riaz will not play. Fakhar will open with Azhar Ali and Junaid Khan will be in the team for Wahab,” he confirmed.
But there will be little change in remaining batting order. Sarfraz, who has a better record at the top of the order, denied that he will shift himself up the order, something which was seen when Pakistan visited England in 2015.
“That time the team combination was different, now it’s different. Mohammed Hafeez was not in the team that time. He is batting in the middle order so we have a different combination. In future I may bat up the order but for now, Hafeez is batting at number four, Babar Azam is at three and Shoaib Malik is at number five and I am batting at six. We want to continue with the same combination,” he said.
Criticised for his decision to bowl Imad Wasim with the new ball against India, Sarfraz explained that Pakistan kept India under control till the 40th over and it was later that they cut loose. He said that the plan was to bowl best bowlers against India’s best batsmen.
“Shoaib bowled two overs and then we got a wicket so I thought we did not need Hafeez or any other spinner to bowl. When Kohli came out to bat, I brought back my main bowlers because we did not want him to settle down and actually he was not set initially and it was only later that he hit out.
“We had this pan to bowl Imad and if you see till the 40th over, although they had lost only one wicket, we had them scoring under five runs per over. If we had taken the catches and we hadn’t bowled bad at the death, we could have restricted them to 270-280.” he said.