LAHORE: Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq attends a news conference on Saturday.—White Star
LAHORE: Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq attends a news conference on Saturday.—White Star

LAHORE: Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq on Saturday said the upcoming back-to-back series in England and West Indies are great opportunities for Pakistan to form the best possible squad for this year’s ICC T20 World Cup.

“Both England and West Indies have strong T20 teams and it is my experience and belief that playing against strong opponents can help you prepare better and judge yourself as to where you stand. So I am taking these tours positively and considering it as a great opportunity for me as coach and for my team before the T20 World Cup,” Misbah said while addressing a press conference in Lahore on Saturday before starting quarantine period at a local hotel from Sunday as part of the tour of England starting from June 25.

The T20 World Cup is scheduled to be hosted by India in October-November.

When asked in case of defeat, he might not have enough time to make changes or to bring improvement in the strategy due to inadequate time as these tours would conclude in late August, Misbah said won or loss did not matter.

“In case of victory we will get to know that we’ have to keep up the good work. On the other hand, if we lose we can identify our problems and will have time to make changes. So, in both the cases these series [in England and West Indies] are good opportunities for us,” the head coach remarked.

Due to the rapid surge in Covid-19 cases across India for the past few months, the World Cup maybe eventually shifted to the UAE, a scenario Misbah reckoned would favour Pakistan.

“The World Cup will most probably be be played in the UAE, where most of our [national team] players are currently featuring in the PSL. So, this could be a good practice for our players before the World Cup,” he said.

To a question about the chances of recalling paceman Mohammad Amir during the tour, Misbah said he had nothing personal with the fast bowler, adding if the left-armer withdrew his international retirement and proved form and fitness he could be considered for selection.

“I have nothing personal with Amir as he staged a comeback into the team under my captaincy [after completing five-year punishment in the 2010 spot-fixing case]. Afterwards under my coaching he was selected but he preferred to remain with his family due to personal reasons,” Misbah stated.

On the selection of Azam Khan whose fitness is being criticised in cricketing circles, Misbah defended picking the aggressive batsman.

“Then Amir was dropped due to his form and fitness; if he shows performance he can return,’ he said.

Misbah said it was unfortunate that the Pakistan teams for the England and West Indies series had to be announced before the start of PSL in Abu Dhabi due to time constraint mainly in the backdrop of the Covid-19 situation.

The head coach admitted that some players selected to the Pakistan squad could not perform in the ongoing PSL but as they were picked on their performances of the past. “Hopefully they will produce impressive performance.”

“The national team tested Asif Ali, Haider Ali and Khushdil Shah at the fifth and sixth positions [which didn’t work]; now, we have picked Azam hoping he will make a quickfire 30-40 runs in the middle-order,” he said. “Azam during his training at the National High Performance Centre has improved his fitness [too].”

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2021

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