Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq both made it a point to back Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal after the duo, on their international return, failed against Sri Lanka in the first T20I on Saturday, 5 October.
Ahmed scored a 9-ball 4, while Akmal was dismissed for a first-ball duck in the first of the three-match series at Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium. Despite that, Sarfaraz said there was “nothing to worry” about, and pointed to the duo’s consistent performances in domestic cricket and the Pakistan Super League.
“If you talk about the previous two [domestic] seasons, they were performers, and they were again performers in the PSL,” Sarfaraz said after Pakistan’s 64-run defeat. “We are trying our fullest to give a complete chance to those who are brought back. There is nothing to worry. Both are experienced players, and once they settle in, they will perform. So [I give] my full backing for them as a captain.”
Shehzad and Akmal had replaced the prominent pair of Fakhar Zaman and Haris Sohail in the XI. It was a particularly eyebrow-raising move, given they had aggregated 130 and 96 respectively from the two ODIs earlier. However, Sarfaraz said the management was keen to play the returning players in their natural positions.
“Fakhar and Harris both have been part of the team for some time now,” Sarfaraz said. “When we brought back Ahmed and Umar, we intended to make them play in their own positions. With our eyes on the [T20 Men’s Cricket] World Cup, if Ahmed is able to settle himself at this [opening] number, we can never find a better player like him.
“Similarly with Umar Akmal, we wanted to play him in his number, and hence had to drop Harris, who we have seen and have no doubt about his ability. We wanted to play them, and give them confidence. For any player, making a comeback isn’t really easy. You do come with performance in domestic [level], but at the international level you take a few innings to get going.”
Misbah concurred, and said the priority at the moment was to prepare for the T20 World Cup next year. “We want to provide a fair chance to every player,” said Misbah. “Those players, who were recalled for the Sri Lanka T20Is, have performed well in domestic cricket as well as in Pakistan Super League (PSL), and hopefully, they will deliver in the remaining matches of Sri Lanka series.
“When changes are made and new players are given chances, then we should be ready to face such results. The phase of change is though tough one, yet it helps in making the combination best by checking every given option. We are focusing on making the best team combination for the upcoming T20 World Cup, and