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"As a captain, I don’t have long-term targets in my mind as it is better to go with short targets."
"As a captain, I don’t have long-term targets in my mind as it is better to go with short targets."

LAHORE: Pakistan’s newly appointed Test captain Sarfraz Ahmed said on Saturday that he believes in setting short targets and the first target is to win the upcoming two-Test series against Sri Lanka.

“As a captain, I don’t have long-term targets in my mind as it is better to go with short targets. So I want to take it series by series to maintain the good work, which Misbah-ul-Haq used to do as captain after he had had taken over the reins of the team in difficult times in 2010,” said Sarfraz said while speaking here at a function arranged by the Sports Journalists Association of Lahore, (SJAL) which honoured him for winning the ICC Champions Trophy in England earlier this year.

He said the upcoming series against Sri Lanka will be tough as the rivals had some seasoned players in their Test eleven and he would not take them lightly. “Sri Lanka is a major Test playing nation with some talented players and we can’t take them lightly despite their recent record,” said Sarfraz. “However, I wish to lead from the front and want to score a hundred in the first Test and also win it.”

Commenting on the composition of Pakistan Test side without its retired stalwarts Younis Khan and Misbah, Sarfraz said: “Yes the absence of Younis and Misbah will surely make a difference and it will take some time to fill their gap. But we have some good batsmen who will hopefully perform well in the series.”

He said youngsters were doing a lot of hard work and the fitness and fielding standard of the boys has improved significantly under the coaching of Mickey Arthur. “The boys were now very cautious about their diet and fitness which is great to see,” he observed.

Answering a question about how much pressure he will be facing as the skipper of all three formats, Sarfraz admitted that victories and defeats both bring certain pressures for a captain.

“But every player goes through ups and downs in his life and face good and hard times which I alsowent through. But I must thank God for helping me at every stage in my life and that has given me confidence.”

Talking about his ideals in cricket, Sarfraz said he really admired former Pakistan captain and wicketkeeper Moin Khan for his approach to the game and fighting spirit. “Moin Bhai has played a significant role in my career and I am thankful to him for where I am today,” he said.

Sarfraz said he was disappointed, like the others, when he came to know about the spot-fixing scandal during the PSL early this year. “Pakistan lost a talented opener in Sharjeel Khan due to that scandal as he could have served Pakistan cricket for a longer time,” he lamented.

He said as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq were the two most experienced players in the current Test team and he would be consulting them throughout to take advantage of their experience.

To a question, Sarfraz expressed hope that a very strong Pakistan team will shape up by the 2019 World Cup.

Speaking on the thorny issue of cricketing ties with neighbouring India, Sarfraz said the PCB has always tried to resume bilateral cricket ties with India but the latter also needed to step forward and make it possible.

“I think the Indian players also want to play against Pakistan and hopefully it will happen in the near future,” he said.

He said the final of the Champions Trophy against India was the most memorable match of his life and it was also one of the great achievements of Pakistan in cricket.

About the quality of the pace attack in the Test team, Sarfraz said: “Though we lack fast bowlers of furious pace, all the fast bowlers are quality bowlers who bowl with lot of variety and guile,” he said.

About the World XI’s recent visit to Pakistan, Sarfraz said it was a great occasion. “All the foreign players were delighted to be part of this successful and pleasant tour in Lahore after playing three T20 matches against Pakistan. Pakistan won the series (2-1) but the World XI was a very strong side and it was not easy for us.”

Later, Sarfraz thanked all the members of SJAL for inviting and honouring him. SJAL also presented him with a special shield.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017