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Sarfraz defends decisions made before and during World Cup


July 8, 2019

KARACHI: Having led Pakistan to the fifth place finish in the ICC World Cup 2019, skipper Sarfraz Ahmed on Sunday revealed that the seven days after Pakistan lost to India were very tough.

“In our first match against the West Indies we failed to click,” Sarfraz told a news conference here at the National Stadium after returning from England. “But the way we fought back against strong England gave us momentum. Unfortunately, our next game against Sri Lanka was washed out. We, as a team, did not play well against Australia and India. After that the seven days were very tough for us,” he added.

“At that time we received messages of encouragement from our players and commentators. We took a two-day off. And then as captain I called a team meeting. I invited all 15 players. Our management was not there in the meeting. I told the players that as a team we are making mistakes somewhere due to which we are unable to pull off performances,” Sarfraz narrated. “What I had noted during the first five matches I discussed with them. The best thing was that our boys responded well. All players also gave their opinion. We made an outstanding comeback in the last four matches. Unfortunately, we failed to qualify for the semi-finals because of net run-rate. But as a team we performed very well and all players played their role in the best possible manner,” the skipper said.

“As captain I am happy with all the people. I also thank my coaching staff. They did their best. Mickey Arthur handled things very tactfully. After our loss against India we faced a tough time but the team management kept the boys united,” Sarfraz said.

Responding to a question, he said their run rate dropped after losing to the West Indies and they knew that they had to win matches convincingly after that. “But in the last few matches the behaviour of the pitches was different. It was not easy to play fast cricket. We wanted to do better but you know matches ended in the final over,” the stumper said.

What asked about the impact of the criticism on the team, Sarfraz said: “When you play bad you will be criticised. In the first five matches we played bad cricket, we admit. If criticism is on cricket it does not matter. After losing to India things were very bad for boys. The loss saddened us as much as it did you and our other friends who sit on television. No one goes there for losing the games.

“No doubt things happened. As far as former cricketers are concerned everyone has views. Everyone has faced such time and they know much better,” Sarfraz said. About his own batting, he said initially he was playing at his own number but they had to change the team so he gave his own number to Haris Sohail. “Haris’s performance is before you. I also like to bat up the order and you know my performance. All players were playing well. Hafeez was our senior player. I tried my best to benefit from his experience. When you have a senior player you try to play him at the same number,” the skipper said.

Sarfraz said he was satisfied with his performance as skipper and as player. When asked about his captaincy, Sarfraz said: “I am not the one to decide that. It is the PCB which decides these matters. I don’t intend to quit as captain. I was made captain by the PCB and the Board will decide whether it wants to retain me or to bring in someone else.”

About his role in team selection, Sarfraz said: “The team in England was my team. Inzi was chief selector. He was there for the first four or five matches. I, Inzi and Mickey formed the team. We always tried our best.”

When asked why he seemed scared in the initial matches, Sarfraz said: “No it was not the thing. We got momentum against England. Had we got the game against Sri Lanka then we would get back-to-back wins and that could have benefited us in the end.”

When asked why Shoaib Malik was not given a farewell match, Sarfraz said: “Malik was our senior player but we wanted to go with the winning combination against Bangladesh. Malik has rendered meritorious services for Pakistan and we wish him good luck. We extended him a small farewell.”

He said if given chance he would try his best to form a much better unit for World T20 in Australia next year. “There are certain things which need to be corrected. I know the boys well. Except Hafeez and Shoaib the rest are juniors. If I get the chance I will try my best. Our T20 team is very good but there, too, we need to induct such players who could play better cricket. We will try our best to form a better unit,” he said.

Sarfraz said that Amir had never been out of the World Cup squad. “Our best effort was to give Amir full opportunity against England so that he could make a comeback and that was the main reason we took him there. It was unfortunate that he could not play because of chickenpox but he was in our World Cup plan,” he said.

About the sudden inclusion of Wahab Riaz, Sarfraz said when they saw the conditions there they knew that they required an express bowler and that was why they recalled him. Sarfraz said that he would want to play until he was fit.

Defending the decision not to drop out-of-form opener Fakhar Zaman, he said they did not want to disturb the combination. “Fakhar started well in some matches, but failed in others. But he was our best player. Everyone faces good and bad time. He was in form in the England series, so we thought he could do better. He tried his best. Unfortunately he could not perform well but still he is our team’s best player,” Sarfraz said.

About the new domestic cricket format, he said: “I don’t know which type of domestic structure is being brought. As far as the previous system is concerned with that you won World Cup in 1992 and World T20 in 2009 and then you won Champions Trophy in 2017. Your team also remained the number one Test team. Last year the team remained the number one T20 team. What I have heard is that the new management wants to have a domestic structure in which six teams would play. If two more teams are included it may further boost it. It is important that your four-day cricket should have more quality. Throughout the world four-day format polishes cricketers, who then play in all formats. The more quality the four-day cricket has, the better our cricketers will be.”

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