Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has heaped praise on batsman Babar Azam ahead of the side’s upcoming ODI series against England and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019. Speaking to media at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Arthur described the 24-year-old Azam as Pakistan’s ‘best batsman’.
The right-hander is ranked No.7 in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Batting Rankings, and averages 51.29 in the format, with eight hundred and ten half-centuries. “Our hopes are high from Babar Azam as he’s our best batsman,” said Arthur. “He is so talented; he is a batsman who gets the required scores.”
Arthur was also complimentary in his assessment of leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan, who recently withdrew from the squad for the England series due to a viral infection, describing him as a ‘three-dimensional cricketer’. He also outlined the expectations from Yasir Shah, who has come in as Shadab’s replacement. “Shadab Khan is a wonderful cricketer,” he said.
“As the buzz word nowadays goes, he’s ‘three-dimensional’. He plays a key role for us just outside the Power play. However, we have tried to cover with another wrist-spinner in Yasir Shah.
“Yasir is below no trickery that he has to challenge both the outside and inside edge of the bat. Our plan will be to attack; we’re going to eye wickets. We have got all the bases covered.”
Arthur was confident that his team is well-equipped for this year’s tournament, citing the versatility of players such as Mohammad Hafeez, who is also an option in the spin department, as he outlined the “faith” that he has in his players. “We have worked really hard over the past two years. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.
“Mohammad Hafeez will be accessible for us during the CWC as an off-spinner too. We have faith in our team. All 15 of those players have the capacity to win matches. We have to bring all our capabilities to produce results in our favor.”
Arthur also said that pacer Mohammad Amir will still have an opportunity to press his case for World Cup selection. The left-arm fast bowler’s form has been on the wane over the last couple of years. Since the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final, Amir has returned five wickets in 101 overs, averaging 92.60 per scalp. However, Amir could still be handy.
“He is running well and his attitude has been outstanding,” he said. “He’s been vivid in the last couple of weeks and he will have chances in England to show us he still justifies a spot in the CWC team.”
Sarfaraz echoed Arthur’s views. “Amir has a chance in the Eng. series to make the final cut,” he said. “He has been working hard here and has exposed that in his bowling in the training camp. In the practice match yesterday, he looked good while bowling. We will try to provide him an opportunity in England so he can perform. It will be a good rivalry amongst our pacers. We have occupied six fast bowlers, so we can alternate and not put any of them under pressure.”
Pakistan faces England in a T20I in Cardiff on 5 May, before their five-match ODI series commences on Wednesday, 8 May at The Oval in London.
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