shoaib malik
Shoaib Malik (AFP Photo)

Veteran allrounder Shoaib Malik feels Pakistan have to identify a core group of players who should definitely make the squad for the upcoming ICC World Cup in England.

Malik, who has played 274 ODIs so far, says sticking to that group will ultimately help the team ahead of the mega event. “I think the best thing is to find your product and stick with a selected bunch of players who have the confidence that they are going to play the World Cup,” Malik was quoted as saying by Cricbuzz on Friday. “We have a bunch of good players who are performing well and as we reach the mega event, they will play more cricket and gain experience which is going to prove helpful.”

Pakistan will look to move on from a 0-3 thrashing they received in the South Africa Test series when they face their hosts in the first ODI of a five-match series from Saturday.

Malik says consistent performance will be their goal for the series. “It’s all about turning up on the given day and performing but as far as preparations go, we are up for the series. Consistency is important in, both, batting and bowling and that is going to be once again our goal in the upcoming series,” he said.

The first ODI will be played at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed putting up runs on the board after batting first will be the key to wins as under lights, it gets difficult to bat in South Africa.

“It is necessary to get runs while batting in the first innings. If a touring team is able to do that, they win matches. Four of our five matches are day/night encounters. The teams prefer to bat first here, like India did [last year], as, it gets difficult to bat under lights,” he said.

Fakhar Zaman was dropped after failing in the first two Tests of the tour, but he remains an important cog in their limited-overs setup. “Fakhar Zaman is a very important player for us and his target is to play his natural game which is quite similar to how David Warner plays or how Virender Sehwag or Shahid Afridi played in the past. I have told him that he needs to stay at the wicket more because his presence scares the bowlers,” he said.

Pakistan will be experimenting with different combinations during the five ODIs as they aim to strike a right balance. “We have to identify our strengths ahead of the World Cup for which we will be trying different combinations in this series and the one against Australia,” Sarfraz said.