LEEDS: Pakistan batter Azam Khan bats in the nets during a training session at Headingley on Monday.—courtesy PCB
LEEDS: Pakistan batter Azam Khan bats in the nets during a training session at Headingley on Monday.—courtesy PCB

LEEDS: Pakistan are in a phase of promptly identifying and reflecting on their shortcomings in order to overcome them in time with the T20 World Cup just round the corner, all-rounder Imad Wasim has said.

The national team’s preparations for the tournament — set to be held in the United States and the West Indies next month — effectively started only in April, with the five-match Twenty20 International series against New Zealand.

In the build-up to the series, Pakistan reappointed Babar Azam as captain, brought back Imad and pacer Mohammad Amir from their respective international retirements and included a number of less experienced players into the camp to test them for different roles.

While Pakistan drew the series against a depleted BlackCaps side 2-2, they also went on to be stunned by Ireland in the opening fixture of following three-match series in Dublin.

However, led by Babar, the team bounced back with a renewed attacking intent with the bat and enhanced lethality with the ball to win the series 2-1.

Pakistan’s last warm-up ahead of the T20 World Cup is the four-match series against England, which starts on May 22.

“I think we should focus on improving ourselves rather than looking at others,” Imad said during a press conference on Monday when asked about England’s potential threat. “We are rapidly fixing our issues. With the kind of meetings we’re having, and the discussions with our coaches, chairman, and captain, I think we’re seeing different changes. You’ll notice these changes in this series and the World Cup.”

Admitting Pakistan were poor against New Zealand and in the first match against Ireland, Imad said the team has learnt complacency was not an option.

“Yes, we didn’t play well against New Zealand and in the match against Ireland, but those are facts,” noted the 35-year-old. “We need to take the positives from that because it’s better it happened now rather than in the World Cup.

“If we get a setback early, we know we can’t relax. Usually, we used to relax, so we decided after the first Ireland match that we won’t relax anymore. Especially against England, we can’t afford to relax. We’ve planned to play every match with the same intensity as we do after a loss.”

While Pakistan were getting reality checks against New Zealand, Gary Kirsten was brought in as Pakistan’s white-ball head coach, with the South African having only four matches against England to implement his ideas before the World Cup.

The former India and Proteas coach joined the Pakistan camp only on Sunday and Imad shared his experience of meeting him on Monday morning.

“We had a chat in the morning when he arrived yesterday,” said the left-arm spinner. “He seems to be a good coach. We’ll work with him and see how it goes.

“We had a very good meeting with him and the entire team management. He kept it quite simple on day one because I guess he didn’t want to overload us with too many new ideas right before a game. It’s the first day, so I can tell you more after the series.”

ENGLAND EAGER TO UNLEASH ARCHER

Meanwhile, England are eager to unleash Jofra Archer’s “fear factor” against Pakistan as the paceman prepares to return from a long injury lay-off ahead of the T20 World Cup, team-mate Sam Curran said on Monday.

Injuries have blighted Archer’s international career and he has not played top-level cricket for 14 months due to back and elbow issues.

He has managed just 15 Twenty20 appearances for England since making his international debut five years ago but is in the squad for their series against Pakistan.

The 29-year-old has been building up his fitness by playing club cricket in Barbados and last week took a wicket for Sussex’s second XI.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have a player of his quality,” all-rounder Curran said. “I’m sure England fans and players are extremely buzzed to have him back.

“He’s obviously got that extra pace and fear factor we can bring to opposition. We all hope his injuries are behind him now.

“Jof’s had a really tough couple of years — we all hope he can come back and do what he does for England and bring the A game that we know he’s got.”

England, who are reigning T20 world champions, are desperate to find form ahead of the tournament in the West Indies and the United States after a dismal 50-over World Cup defence in India last year.

Curran is one of eight squad members who returned early from the Indian Premier League ahead of the Pakistan series.

The players had little time together before the defence of their 50-over title.

“The messaging from (captain) Jos (Buttler) and the coaching staff was they wanted to get the group back together and we probably didn’t have that last time,” said Curran. “We’ve been apart for a while so these games are going to be really crucial. We want to be playing as a team and get used to our roles.

“There’s a lot of buzz around the group, it seems like we’re back to our energy and it seems like the boys are really fizzed about this trophy hopefully coming back.”

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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