Despite being up against a daunting batting line-up, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed is hopeful that the rest of his bowling options will deliver in Mohammad Amir’s absence when the three-match T20I series against ICC World XI begins Tuesday.
Amir stayed back in London after his stint with Essex this summer with his wife as they are expecting their first child.
With the birth expected at the same time as the World XI’s tour, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had announced a 16-member squad to have ample bowling options in case Amir was unavailable.
“We had announced a 16-member squad for this series and included Sohail Khan because we envisaged the birth of Amir’s first child,” Sarfraz said in a press conference on the eve of the first T20I at the Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore. “Unfortunately, he is not available but we have all necessary options in the line-up.”
When asked to name a bowler he relied on to fill in Amir’s shoes, the Pakistan captain said: “With such a talented bunch, it is really hard for me to pinpoint anyone. Hasan Ali has been fantastic of-late. So have Rumman Raees and Shadab Khan.”
Since Sarfraz was brought in to lead Pakistan in the shorter format after a disastrous World T20 campaign in India last year, the team has had a terrific record of seven wins in eight matches. They are ranked three in the T20I rankings.
However, leading his side against World XI will be an altogether different experience for Sarfraz, who has captained Pakistan in T20 cricket against England (in one-off T20I in England during their tour of England in 2016) and the West Indies. Ten of his players in the squad are yet to play an international fixture on their home soil.
“World XI is a very strong unit and we have a relatively younger side,” Sarfraz said. “We look forward to competitive cricket. There are no big and small teams in T20 cricket actually. All you have to do is click at the right moment.
“Since I have become captain we have been playing a younger T20 side. We did the same against the West Indies in the Caribbean. The purpose is to build a strong young side that can feed the ODI and Test sides as well.”
When asked what nature of the contests was he expecting, Sarfraz, while bursting into laughter, said: “We hope that the matches would be one-sided affairs in our favour.”
Sarfraz has been part of all three major cricket activities in Pakistan since the fateful attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009 that shut the doors of international cricket on the country. He kept stumps during Zimbabwe’s short tour in 2015, captained Quetta Gladiators in the final of the second edition of the Pakistan Super League against Peshawar Zalmi in March this year, and now he leads Pakistan in Pakistan.
“This is a really exciting moment for me,” Sarfraz replied when asked about how he felt to be leading Pakistan in Pakistan. “I have been a part of all the three major cricket activities since 2009 and this time I am participating as a captain.”
He looks forward to be playing international cricket again in Karachi, his hometown. “Some of the PSL matches will be played in Karachi which will open the doors," he said. "I played international cricket in Karachi when I was a part of Pakistan’s Asia Cup squad [in 2008]. We played against India there and defeated them. Hopefully Karachi along with all the other cities will be hosting international cricket very soon.”