BIRMINGHAM: In the last year or so, Pakistan batsmen have come under a lot of scrutiny because of the pace with which they play. Sarfraz Ahmed, in his pre-tournament press conference, too acknowledged that and urged his players to play fearless cricket. “Our aim is to just play our natural game, just play freely. Don’t think too many percentages, just play as we play in domestic (cricket),” he went on to say.
Azhar Ali, the former One-Day International captain, acknowledged that the batsmen have specifically worked on that aspect. “We’ve worked on it,” he said. “We know the game has come a long way. We’ve seen some good results in the recent past. Obviously, there’s a long way to go but we are working on it. We would love to play at the same pace that the rest of the world is playing.”
Pakistan take on India in their Champions Trophy opening encounter on Sunday (June 4) and while in the previous editions it’s been a clash of India’s batting against Pakistan’s bowling, this time things are bound to change. With a formidable pace attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav, the Indian bowling will pose a lot more challenges for Pakistan’s batting.
Azhar, though, retirated that the team is well equipped to handle any challenge. “India’s bowling has improved a lot in the recent past but we also have a good bowling group,” he said. “We know our strengths and we are prepared for them. India have been bowling really. They are a very good bowling side.
“Every team is trying their best to perform in batting, bowling and fielding as well. There’s nothing easy in international cricket. We expect every team to post a challenge.”
In the lead up to the tournament, Pakistan posted a magnificent come-from-behind win against Bangladesh where they chased down 341 despite being 249 for 8. The star in that contest was Fahim Ashraf, who blasted an unbeaten 64 off 30. Azhar, however, kept his cards close to his chest and refused to reveal if the allrounder will make his debut against India or not. “This is up to the team management to decide,” he said. “Whatever the team management decides, we do believe that everyone has the ability to perform.”