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April 25, 2019

Pakistan begin final leg of World Cup preps in Kent


April 25, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan will play their opening ICC World Cup 2019 game – a mouthwatering clash against equally unpredictable West Indies — more than five weeks from now.

But the final phase of their preparations for the World Cup began on Wednesday at a picturesque Beckenham cricket ground in Kent where the Pakistanis carried out their first training session, a day after landing in England for a tour that could last up to eleven weeks. They would be playing a minimum of 20 limited-overs matches during that period, nine of them being World Cup league games.

They are the first of the nine visiting teams to arrive in England ahead of the World Cup to be played in England and Wales from May 31 to July 14. Team officials are confident that the five weeks of pre-tournament training and 11 matches that include a full limited-overs series against hosts and title favourites England will help the Pakistan to get fully ready for the World Cup.

But such long pre-tournament periods could also backfire in the shape of injuries to players. Pakistan are already reeling from the last-minute shock of young leggie Shadab Khan, who was forced to miss the series against England because of illness. Shadab, who arrived in London on Wednesday for treatment, is now facing a race against time to get fit ahead of the World Cup.

Shadab is not the only Pakistani player struggling to regain full fitness ahead of the ten-nation extravaganza. Imad Wasim is recovering from a chronic knee problem. Shoaib Malik has struggled with fitness issues in recent times and so has Mohammad Hafeez, the other veteran in the 15-man Pakistan squad for the World Cup. Harris Sohail, too, has had chronic fitness issues.

However, a team official played down fears that Pakistan might struggle to take 15 fit players into the World Cup. “We have devised a plan to make sure that all our players are fit and peak form as we enter the World Cup late next month,” the official told ‘The News’.

It was evident from the team’s first training session in Kent on Wednesday that the team officials won’t be taking any chances. The Pakistan team players were asked to undergo a mild physical training session and then they took part in the nets. They will have two more similar training sessions on Thursday and Friday before playing the first of three warm-up games ahead of the series against England.

“All the players took part in the training session. It was a very productive first session,” a team official said. The Pakistanis, who trained in hot and humid conditions in Lahore before leaving for England, were greeted by cold and windy conditions in Kent.

The game against Kent to be played at Beckenham on Saturday will be followed similar matches against Northamptonshire (Northampton on April 29) and Leicestershire (at Leicester on Labour Day). The series against England will begin with a one-off Twenty20 International in Cardiff on May 5 followed by the five-match ODI series starting from May 8.

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