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April 23, 2019

We will play every Cup match as a match against India: Sarfraz

Sports

April 23, 2019

KARACHI: Former champions Pakistan will take on old rivals India at Old Trafford on June 16 in what would be one of their biggest matches of the year.

The big clash is already touted as one of the high points of ICC World Cup 2019 and Pakistan would be hoping to tame the high-flying Indians just like they did two years ago in the ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval.

However, Sarfraz Ahmed on Monday tried to play down the hype surrounding the Indo-Pak clash, stressing that for his team all nine league matches of the World Cup will be of equal importance.

“For us all nine matches are important so we will take every match as a match against India,” Sarfraz told reporters ahead of the Pakistan team’s departure for England where it will play a limited-overs series against the hosts ahead of the World Cup which gets underway on May 30.

Sarfaraz said Pakistan would take the confidence from the 2017 Champions Trophy triumph, where they defeated India in the final by 180 runs, saying: “We have beaten India in a bigger event recently so we will have that advantage”.

There has been a lot of talk around England and India being among the favourites going into the World Cup this year. However, this isn’t something that’s worrying the Pakistan skipper. “Look, when we go as favourites, then it’s a problem, but if we go as underdogs then other teams feel the danger, so I think being underdogs is good for us and eases the pressure.”

Sarfraz Ahmed also said that being underdogs in next month’s World Cup eases the pressure on his young team. Pakistan will play three warm-up matches before taking on joint-hosts England in a five-match one-day series and a Twenty20.

The 1992 World Cup winners start their campaign against the West Indies in Nottingham on May 31. Sarfraz he would prefer his side to go into the tournament under the radar. “Look, when we go as favourites, then it’s a problem, but if we go as underdogs then other teams feel the danger, so I think being underdogs is good for us and eases the pressure,” he said.

Sarfraz, 31, was among five key players rested for the whitewash ODI series defeat by Australia last month to freshen up the squad before the competition.

He was handed a four-match suspension in January by the International Cricket Council after he made a racist comment about South Africa’s Andile Phehlukwayo during an ODI. All ten teams will play each other in the tournament starting on May 30 with England taking on South Africa in the opening fixture. The top four teams will qualify for the semi-finals.

He said the theme of Pakistan’s World Cup mission is “we have, we will”, citing the team’s previous glories. Along with the Champions Trophy two years ago, Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup and the 2009 World Twenty20.

“I think these are exciting times for Pakistan cricket and for the team,” said Mickey Arthur, who took over as head coach in May 2016. “We leave on a journey for which we have worked really hard,” he said, adding that they have “a good team, both in talent and attitude”.

“The initial thing is to qualify for the last four and take it from there, so I think we have the potential to certainly go all the way but before that we have to play very well,” South African Arthur added.

Pakistan have named two extra players in their squad for the five-match one-day series against England, with paceman Mohammad Amir and batsman Asif Ali in addition to the 15 for the World Cup. But they have until May 23 to finalise their squad for the tournament. —with inputs from agencies

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