KARACHI: While dispelling the impression that leading the national team in all three formats is in any way burdening him, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed says he has tried to give his 100 per cent while enjoying the game
“It is great honour for me that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has appointed me captain in all three formats; and this [responsibility] in no way is burdening me,” Sarfraz told Dawn in an interview after a physical workout here at the UBL Sports Complex on Monday.
“I have always enjoyed playing cricket in every format and tried to produce my best and bring the best out of the national team [as captain].”
The 30-year-old Sarfraz, who rose to prominence after leading Pakistan to a glorious 180-run triumph against arch-rivals India in the ICC Champions Trophy final at The Oval last year, said like anybody else he was also disappointed at the national team’s 0-5 ODI series loss in New Zealand recently.
“We could have won at least two ODIs [in New Zealand]. But in the end the result went against us,” the skipper remarked. “The batting, which has some flaws, did not click according to our plans.”
Skipper dismisses reports on differences with senior players
Commenting on varying conditions in New Zealand, Sarfraz said, “Being professional cricketers, we have to adjust to different playing conditions and perform well in all circumstances.”
Sarfraz, who has represented Pakistan in 38 Tests, 85 ODIs and 38 T20 Internationals, emphatically rejected any differences in the team or those with the senior players.
“Whenever Pakistan team lose in such a way these rumours [about differences] and conspiracy theories erupt,” he lamented.
“I enjoy good relations with [senior] players like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik an there is complete harmony in the team.
“[In New Zealand] We missed an experienced bowler like Hafeez,” the captain said about the veteran spinner who is currently undergoing a one-year ban imposed by the ICC over illegal action.
When asked to comment on the future of the senior players ahead of next year’s World Cup in England, Sarfraz said it all depends upon their form and fitness and added that “the selection committee is the best judge”.
While admitting there was lack of consistency in batting which tilted the ODI results in New Zealand’s favour, Sarfraz however expressed satisfaction at the way his Twenty20 team combined to clinch the three-match series 2-1 to secure top spot in the ICC rankings.
The skipper also denied the view that heaps of applause and prize money had disturbed the team’s focus after their fabulous victory at the Champions Trophy.
“The players deserved respect, appreciation and financial rewards after their triumph at last year’s Champions Trophy,” Sarfraz maintained, adding “sometimes too much criticism is unwarranted.”
He hoped that fast-improving young players will learn from their mistakes to become better players.
“Pakistan need drastic improvement in their batting, particularly in Tests and ODIs.”
Commenting on the positives Pakistan achieved on an otherwise disastrous limited-overs tour to New Zealand, the captain said young leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan has shown the required talent and promise to stay at the crease.
“I hope Shadab will maintain consistency in his performance with bat and ball.”
He said opener Fakhar Zaman, top-order batsman Babar Azam and all-rounder Fahim Ashraf have also shown progress and are bright players.
Responding to a question about Pakistan bowlers, Sarfraz said they during a couple of matches in New Zealand put the home team on the backfoot.
He said the national team will pose a stiff challenge for their opponents on the upcoming tour of England and Ireland where Pakistan will be playing three Test matches.
“Though it will be a tough tour but we are capable of competing against England and Ireland,” Sarfraz emphasised.
On the Pakistan Super League T20 tournament starting in the UAE on Feb 22, Sarfraz, who leads Quetta Gladiators in the event, said they are seeking to reach and win the final in Karachi after finishing runners-up in the first two editions.
The Pakistan captain further said that he will be trying his best to convince English batting star Kevin Pietersen — who skipped last year’s PSL final staged in Lahore — to come and feature in this year’s decider to be held at Karachi’s National Stadium on March 25.
“The World XI visit [to Lahore] last year is a step towards full resumption of international cricket in Pakistan and Pietersen will take clue from it,” Sarfraz said about the batsman who is also part of the Gladiators’ squad.