SHARJAH: Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur is confident new players will grab the opportunity to fill a few available places for the ICC World Cup 2019 through the five-match ODI series against Australia.
Pakistan have rested six players — captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan — to provide an opportunity to the other leading performers to stake a claim for the tournament to be held in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.
Arthur believed it was a well-thought out and a sensible decision. “We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players.
“There was planning, sometimes people think that its ad hoc. We want to test our bench-strength so that we could have a look at our final squad and combination. We know our major players for the World Cup.”
Openers Shan Masood and uncapped Abid Ali have been prolific scorers in domestic and ‘A’ series, while batsman Saad Ali scored more than 900 runs in the 2017-18 first-class season.
Paceman Mohammad Abbas is an established Test spearhead who has the knock of doing well in limited overs as well, while rookie 18-year-old Mohammad Hasnain has impressed with his pace in the recently-concluded HBL Pakistan Super League.
Umar Akmal has also been recalled after impressing with his match fitness in the PSL.
“After this series, we go to England and there we go with a very, very settled squad and the roles will be defined. We want to know where the squad stands. We felt that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup,” Arthur remarked.
Pakistan also play five One-day Internationals against England before the 10-team mega event.
Arthur believes trying new players will help in long term. “For us, it isn’t so much about Australia, this is about us and those positions for the World Cup and the opportunity created for a lot of players because for us, we need to find who our players are for every position.
“If we could do that out of this series, then it would be good for us.
“To be honest, it’s a new squad. This is a series of opportunities. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work-out that a few positions are available for the World Cup. There are probably four available. [chief selector] Inzamam-ul-Haq and I have discussed that. So, these young players need to raise their hands up and try make those places their own. It’s an exciting time going into the World Cup.”
Arthur backed the decision to rest skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and five others.
“Sarfraz needs rest,” the coach of the skipper of Pakistan across all three formats. “As does Babar and rest of the guys; I was telling the Australian boys we have been in the hotels since 12 September. [If] we just keep playing our guys, they gonna get injured and fatigued.
“We will have a series in England, which will give us a perfect preparation for us going into the World Cup and we would have been silly not to use this series as a rest going into the biggest challenge, the World Cup.”
Arthur, who also coached South Africa and Australia, believes Australia are a resurging side after a turbulent period in the wake of last year’s ball tampering episode.
“Australia are a fantastic side and they have bubbled away, they have gone through much publicised crisis and they seem to be playing some very good cricket at the moment.
“To win the series from 0-2 down was a fantastic achievement,” Arthur said of Australia’s 3-2 ODI series win in India before this tour. “They have got some fine players, (Usman) Khawaja is in good nick, Pat Cummins is in good nick.
“They have some good young guys. I am sure they will rotate their players through the series as they also need their major players firing.”
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019