DUBAI: Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, took the blame for his team’s poor show at the Asia Cup, but said that there’s time to rebuild the team for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, reported ICC.
A convincing eight-wicket win over Hong Kong in the tournament opener suggested Pakistan were going to be a force. But it was followed by an eight-wicket defeat to India, and then, following a last-over win over Afghanistan in the Super Fours, losses to India and Bangladesh. As a result, Pakistan crashed out of the tournament they have won twice in the past.
It was disappointing for fans of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 winners, especially with the Asia Cup taking place in their adopted home, the United Arab Emirates.
“Yes, our performance was very poor. Our batting wasn’t good, and we dropped a lot of catches. Our bowling was also patchy, and that’s the reason we are out of the tournament,” accepted Ahmed, who had a poor run with the bat himself, scoring 68 runs in four innings.
“I know I didn’t perform well. I needed to do much better, which I couldn’t. I take responsibility for the team’s performance.”
Shoaib Malik and Imam-ul-Haq were Pakistan’s best performers with the bat, but Fakhar Zaman, among others, was disappointing. On the field, catches were missed and while Junaid Khan picked up four wickets in the only game he played, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and some of the other bowlers were largely underwhelming.
“I still believe we have a lot of talented players in the team. Look at Fakhar Zaman. Though he didn’t have a good tournament, we have to back him. Babar Azam too. Imam has, thankfully, done well, but there’s also Shadab and Hasan. We have to back them and take them along with us. We have to look at our bench too. We have a pool of players, and by the time the World Cup comes, we’ll have a good team,” said Ahmed.
“The World Cup is quite some time away, we have other engagements before that. Australia are coming, and then there’s New Zealand. So we have to review our performance and see where we are falling short.
“We are losing too many wickets early, and the middle order has had to deal with the new ball, which isn’t easy, and hitting quickly in the end isn’t easy on these pitches. We’ll have to get together and fix these issues.”
While Ahmed called the performance ‘alarming’, he added, “There’s no need to press the panic button. Yes, we have made mistakes as a team, and as a captain, I know that I didn’t do well. But no need to panic, we need to back the players, look at the positions and see if there are people outside the team who can come in.”
Ahmed also accepted that the overall performance, especially the two losses to India, are likely to raise questions on his future.
“There’s always pressure on the captain of the Pakistan team. When the team does badly, obviously the pressure increases. If I tell you that I haven’t slept properly for the last six days, you won’t believe me. But yes, I want to stress that we shouldn’t panic. There should be criticism for our performance, but give us a little time,” he said.
“If you look at Fakhar Zaman or Imam-ul-Haq or Babar Azam or Shadab Khan or Hasan Ali, they are not too experienced. Shaheen Shah Afridi has played just three games. Only Shoaib bhai has a lot of experience. We recognise that we have done badly, but we’ll try to improve.”