(CLOCKWISE) Netherlands’ batter Vikramjit Singh throws the ball during a training session at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Thursday; Pakistan players stretch during a practice session; Captain Babar Azam bats in the nets; Shadab Khan looks to catch the ball.—AFP
(CLOCKWISE) Netherlands’ batter Vikramjit Singh throws the ball during a training session at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Thursday; Pakistan players stretch during a practice session; Captain Babar Azam bats in the nets; Shadab Khan looks to catch the ball.—AFP

HYDERABAD: Pakis­tan will embrace the ultra aggressive approach that has worked wonders for some of their World Cup rivals and add their own touch to it, men’s team director Mickey Arthur said on Thursday without elaborating on what that would be.

Speaking in Hyderabad before their tournament opener against the Netherlands on Friday, Arthur said the 1992 champions were good enough to claim a second title with a brand of cricket similar to that played by the likes of England and Australia.

“The players have embraced it. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but I always say there’s always two ways to skin a cat,” Arthur, who was in charge of Pakistan as coach from 2016 to 2019 before returning in April, told reporters.

“Our bowling attack is up there as one of the best and with runs on the board our bowlers can generally defend that. You watch England and Australia playing this brand of cricket. Our guys will follow that.

“There’s no doubt about that. They’re good enough to do that. But we’re playing a brand that we call the Pakistan way. We’re playing a brand that’s very particular to Pakistan and suits our team dynamic.

“That’s a brand that we’re going to hopefully win the World Cup with.”

Arthur hopes his players will have two wins under their belts before they face old rivals India in the eagerly-awaited World Cup blockbuster.

After the Netherlands game, Pakistan take on Sri Lanka, also in Hyderabad, four days later.

Babar Azam and his men will then lock horns against India in Ahmedabad on Oct 14 in front of 132,000 fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the world’s biggest cricket arena.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable spectacle,” said Arthur on Thursday. “I can’t wait for it, personally. Hopefully we’ve got two wins under the belt before we get to Ahmedabad.”

Arthur praised India, the world’s number one ODI team.

“India are playing some fantastic cricket, but so are we,” said Arthur. “I just think it’s going to be a great game. I can’t wait for it, personally.”

Pakistan will hope to overcome a poor show in the recently held Asia Cup where they suffered a 228-run rout at the hands of India and lost by two wickets against Sri Lanka.

They also went down in both World Cup warm-up games against New Zealand and Australia, also in Hyderabad.

Arthur said his team will, however, be focused on the Netherlands rather than India.

“We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” said Arthur. “First of all, the boys love being in India, which is fantastic.

“The pressure of a World Cup is always massive. But I think our boys are in a really good place.”

Pakistan appointed Arthur in April this year for a second stint, doubling up on his job with Derbyshire in the English county championship.

He vowed to complete the unfinished business of winning a second World Cup to add to Pakistan’s 1992 triumph.

“I felt in 2019 we were very, very close,” said Arthur despite Pakistan failing to reach the semi-finals. “These young boys have now become men and have another four years’ experience.

“Look, they’re a very close group because they’ve played together for so long. They know each other backwards. They’re not only team-mates, but they’re generally friends as well.”

Arthur also played down concerns over the lack of form of opener Fakhar Zaman and spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan.

“I think form comes and goes,” said Arthur. “The quality of these players that we have in those positions is undoubted.”

Meanwhile, Nether­lands all-rounder Bas de Leede said his team have done their homework to try and counter star fast bowler Shaheen in their match on Friday.

The Dutch side will face Shaheen for the first time as the left-armer missed Pakistan’s 3-0 ODI series win against them last year with a knee injury.

De Leede hopes his team can negate the threat of Shaheen more successfully than they fared against Australia’s Mitchell Starc, who took a hat-trick in a rained-off warm-up match in Thiruvananthapuram.

“Shaheen has been a focus point for us in our preparation and also our analysis,” De Leede said on the eve of the match.

“So, hopefully we’re going to play him better than we did against Starc the other day.”

Shaheen will partner fellow quick Haris Rauf after 20-year-old Naseem Shah, the third member of Pakistan’s feared pace attack, was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.

“Obviously Shaheen and Haris Rauf are two quality pacers, something we don’t face too often is left-arm swing. It was a little bit of a wake-up call for us against Mitchell Starc the other day.”

De Leede said they have a reasonable idea of what to expect from Pakistan.

“Obviously, having played Pakistan last year in Rotterdam in three ODIs, it’ll be nice to sort of be familiar with the team and the players and stuff, having played them before.”

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2023

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