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By Saj Sadiq
Pakistan’s preparations ahead of the Champions Trophy were hampered by the weather in Edinburgh on Sunday as their One-Day International against Scotland was washed out without a ball being bowled. Pakistan defeated their hosts by 96 runs in the first game on Friday and despite the abandonment of the second match Pakistan’s head coach Dav Whatmore, speaking with PakPassion.net, felt the trip to Scotland had been an important step in his team’s preparations for the Champions Trophy next month.
“The reason we were in Edinburgh, backed by the investment of the Pakistan Cricket Board in the trip to Scotland, was to maximise our preparations ahead of the Champions Trophy. The first match against Scotland last Friday was terrific preparation as we had a full one 100-over game which was great. Unfortunately, you cannot control the weather and Sunday’s match was called off. I think Sunday would also have been vital in our preparations as we had planned to play all of the boys who did not participate in the first match against Scotland. We prepared well in Pakistan for the Champions Trophy at the camp in Abbottabad before we came over to Scotland, but we have to acclimatise here in the United Kingdom as it’s much cooler than it was in Pakistan,” stated Whatmore.
When asked if he was happy with the 15-man squad for the ICC Champions Trophy despite some experienced campaigners not being included through injury and poor form, Whatmore said: “Yes. We have a good blend of experience and youth. The lack of experience in the squad is certainly not an excuse and will not be an excuse. If we hit our straps we can be very competitive in every game that we play and we see the preparation in Scotland and Ireland as an advantage leading up to the Champions Trophy. We’ve got two matches coming up in Ireland and it’s all good preparation for the first Champions Trophy match against the West Indies at the Oval.”
Umar Akmal’s omission from the Champions Trophy squad raised some eyebrows amongst Pakistan fans and members of the media, but Whatmore had some words of comfort for Akmal and feels that his omission should be an incentive for the 22-year-old from Lahore to go back to domestic cricket and prove his value to the team. “My message for Umar [Akmal] is that he needs to go back and work extremely hard in domestic cricket and make plenty of runs, because his ability is such that it deserves to be seen at the highest level of cricket. Unfortunately he’s not in the Champions Trophy squad, but if he works hard in domestic cricket, he can make a comeback.”
Shahid Afridi’s poor form of late meant that despite prolonged discussions between members of the PCB selection committee, he was another who missed out. Whatmore refused to be drawn into discussions about Afridi’s non-selection, but added that he has confidence in his squad. “I don’t really want to get involved in Afridi’s omission, or any player’s omission for that matter. That’s not really my area of concern. We will play with the 15 players we have been given and I’m very confident with the squad we have here in the United Kingdom. I feel that we have the best 15 players available to us at the Champions Trophy and I’m confident that we can make our presence felt in the tournament.”
Umar Gul’s knee injury has meant that Pakistan will be missing their experienced fast bowler in the tournament but Whatmore, whilst acknowledging Gul’s absence was a blow, felt that the pace bowlers at his disposal were becoming more reliable and consistent. “We’ll miss Umar Gul. He’s an experienced campaigner and you always miss your experienced guys, both on and off the field in areas which are difficult to measure and define. However the pace bowling resources for Pakistan at the Champions Trophy are pretty good and I feel they are becoming more trustworthy and more reliable which is a good thing.”
Twenty20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez has been having a lean time with the bat of late in ODIs, with only one half-century in his last seven 50-over innings. Hafeez batted at No 3 in Friday’s match against Scotland and Whatmore indicated that Hafeez would be asked to bat in that position for the Champions Trophy “I think you’ll see Mohammad Hafeez batting at No 3 in the warm-up games and during the Champions Trophy, but we always have the option of him going back up the order to open the innings if he’s required to do so.”
Whatmore praised the efforts and performance of captain Misbah-ul-Haq who has been in tremendous form with the bat, scoring 349 runs in his last seven ODI at an average of just under 70. It was Misbah who rescued Pakistan from a difficult position against Scotland last Friday and Whatmore, when asked about his captain’s batting position and his recent form, said: “People are never happy, are they? If Misbah is doing well at No 5, they want him to change and bat in a different position. The rotation and changing of the batting order will always remain an option to us, but Misbah’s batting has had a new lease of life and he has injected some real enthusiasm into our batting. He has contributed enormously to a lot of our wins.”
Pakistan are set to continue their preparations for the Champions Trophy with a short series against Ireland in Dublin, contesting two ODIs on Thursday and Sunday.
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