KARACHI: Lauding the “unpredictable” Pakistan for their brilliant turnaround in the recently-concluded ICC Champions Trophy, former Pakistan captain Asif Iqbal believes the newly emerged players should be allowed to prosper in their own natural way.

“Let these young players compete in the uninhibited [natural] way they play and I am sure they will continue to surprise and deliver by winning more trophies and series. The [newly emerged] talent is not meant to be polished for display purpose. The raw talent is fuelled by passion and desire to do well and to win. There is no need to try and show them the coaching manual,” Asif told Dawn from England when approached to comment on Pakistan’s show in the elite eight-team ICC event.

Asif, who captained Pakistan in the first two World Cups hosted by England in 1975 and 1979, underlined Pakistan lived up to their well-known “unpredictable” tag, which helped them to the premier title at The Oval.

“The performance against India in the opening match was so poor that not even diehard Pakistan fans expected the team to reach the semi-final stage. But, as we have seen on several occasions in the past, the team known as ‘unpredictable’ once again did not disappoint those who have given this label to them. It was a dream that most of the team supporters would like to continue,” Asif, 74, added.

“The captaincy and the [excellent] response from the entire team to Sarfraz make such dreams come true.”

Giving his view on Pakistan’s amazing show in the high-octane final, Asif said, “Losing the toss was a blessing and from the reprieve Fakhar Zaman had after being caught behind on a no-ball, in my opinion, was the beginning of the turnaround of Pakistan’s fortunes.”

Asif commended Sarfraz for his plucky leadership at the high-profile event.

“The team gets the praise for winning [the title] and from me Sarfraz gets the praise for executing the plot hatched by the coaching staff and for getting the team together and getting the best out of them. That is the main job of the captain besides leading from the front and Sarfraz filled all the boxes.”

Asked to give his word on whether Sarfraz, after the grand victory in the Champions Trophy, should be installed as Test captain too or groomed for the job, Asif reckoned there was no harm in handing the Test mantle to the spirited wicketkeeper-batsman.

“Sarfaraz is [Test] captain in waiting and whenever the time comes, I am sure he will be given the Test captaincy. There is nothing wrong in having the same captain in all formats. What is important is that he gets the full support of the team, team management and PCB officials,” insisted Asif.

While youngsters like Fakhar, Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali excelled in the Champions Trophy, some of the senior players could not perform consistently. However, Asif had a different view on it.

“No doubt that our youngsters provided us with the ‘x’ factor but the contribution of Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and other senior players played a crucial role in this campaign. Shoaib playing that cameo against South Africa helped Pakistan in winning on D/L method and likewise Hafeez in the final with his awesome hitting contributed massively. What is required now is to make sure that these youngsters are given regular opportunities to develop their talent.

On whether Pakistan is on right path for the 2019 World Cup and whether any specific measures are required to polish the team to make it a well-oiled unit for the 2019 showpiece, Asif said, “After this stunning [Champions Trophy] victory, I would advise the authorities concerned to allow this team and future youngsters to play their natural game which they know how to play.”

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2017