KARACHI: David Hemp, the head coach of Pakistan’s women’s team, did not shy away from admitting that the team has set its eyes on the qualification round in Sri Lanka for the 2022 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

“The first priority for us is the 50-over qualification round in Sri Lanka in June-July this year,” Hemp said on Sunday during an online press conference from Durban with the Pakistan team preparing for the series against hosts South Africa which begins next week.

“On this tour we are playing both T20Is and ODIs and our approach is to win all six games. We have been looking at the 50-over competition because that’s priority for us. We need to give ourselves the best opportunity to qualify for the World Cup in Feb-March 2022 in New Zealand.”

Speaking about the challenge of taking on a strong South African side in their home conditions, he added: “We are excited about the series ahead. We are going against a strong South African side – a side that’s ranked above us. We know we are up against a very stiff opposition with some very good players. But we are certainly excited about challenging ourselves and playing against this group. The series against South Africa is important because it gives us a chance to gauge ourselves against a side that’s ranked above us in both formats.”

Hemp said that all players are fit and well. “Everyone is fit; there are a couple of little niggles but nothing that rules anybody out. The players have had some good preparation time and reasonable training sessions in Durban.”

When asked what the team’s strategy will be, Hemp said the team will try to be positive.

“South Africa are a very good side and we are going to have to play really well,” he said. “In terms of strategy, if you think about T20 cricket, it’s a game that challenges you. It’s played under pressure, there’s limited number of balls so you have to make sure that your plans are pretty clear but more importantly that you execute them really well because of the pressure of limited number of balls. So, in short, it’s about us going out and play positive cricket, looking to take the game on whether that’s with the bat, the ball or in the field.”

The head coach did not also shy away from acknowledging that the South African side boasts seriously talented players. “In terms of defeating South Africa, it will be a challenge for us. They are a very good side with very good players. They have got some match-winners in their squad. They had eight players in the recent Women’s Big Bash in Australia. So their players are used to playing in these major competitions.”

Hemp was honest in his assessment of the team, saying that Pakistan had skillful but inconsistent players.

“We are trying to refocus on the training environment and making sure we are making the most of those training opportunities,” he said.

“The bottomline is we are sitting seventh in the rankings at the moment and we want to get as high in the rankings as possible. We last played in the T20 World Cup, almost 10 months ago.

“I took over this role three months ago and I joined the first women’s camp in the middle of October last year during the lockdown in Pakistan. The girls had already been in the camp for two weeks when I joined the camp. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been very supportive of the women’s game and trying to help us as much as possible. We had a domestic tournament in November and also had a three-week camp in Karachi prior to arriving in Durban.

“So, we have managed to get players together and have been fortunate from that point of view. We have played some games amongst ourselves and with the boys’ teams, but obviously we haven’t had any international games within that period just like everyone else.”

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2021

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