Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on Tuesday backed veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik to contribute more with the ball during the upcoming New Zealand tour and cover for Mohammad Hafeez, who is serving a one-year ban due to a flaw in his bowling action.
While admitting that Hafeez's loss before such a tricky series is a major setback for the team, the skipper expressed full faith in Malik's abilities, saying: "This was a setback for the team but I am confident that the plan PCB has devised for rectification of Hafeez's action will help him clear (the next test). In the meantime, Shoaib Malik will pitch in with the ball during the middle orders. We're very hopeful that he'll do a fine job in Hafeez's absence."
When asked which one of Harris Sohail and Mohammad Nawaz is ahead in the pecking order, Sarfraz revealed both have different roles in the side and hinted that he could even pick both.
"We mainly consider Harris a batsman-bowler, whereas Nawaz is in the side as a bowling all-rounder," he said during a media briefing. "Now it depends on how we play over there and whether we use four bowlers or five. Team selection will depend on the pitches there."
Sarfraz also threw his weight behind the batting unit, and reminded the critics that the batsmen also fared admirably in 2017.
"Pakistan's bowling has always been strong but our batsmen have also been doing well since the West Indies tour," he said. "Yes, we couldn't score that big against India — but against South Africa and Sri Lanka, our batsmen did contribute. Mind you, we now also have depth in our batting: Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Fahim Ashraf are all batting very well."
And if runs keep on flowing down under, Sarfraz says he will have "no reason to change the batting order and that the same line-up will continue".
Regarding the team's strategy for New Zealand, Sarfraz said: "We want to play positive cricket. In places such as New Zealand, if you don't play attacking cricket, bowlers usually get the upper hand."
The Champions Trophy-winning captain was also asked what he thinks of the recent T10 phenomenon, to which he replied: "If you see it from the perspective of enjoyment, there is nothing better than T10. It's a 10-a-side match, which ends in an hour-and-a-half. But I also think that if T10 comes to the forefront, then more kids will play that brand of cricket and no one will be interested in Test cricket."