Out of a thrashing from Australia in a limited-overs series, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was happy to embrace two positives: Unearthing a new batsman and fast bowler.
“Losing 5-0 to Australia is something that hurts us incredibly,” Arthur said on Tuesday in Lahore on the team’s return from the United Arab Emirates. “Whether it’s your first team or your second team, they are out there representing the nation, representing 210 million people.”
While Pakistan rested seven players who will be in the Cricket World Cup squad, two newcomers took the chance to shine. Opening batsman Abid Ali made a stunning debut at age 31 when he scored 112 in the fourth match in Dubai last Friday, and 18-year-old fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain constantly bowled at an exciting pace.
Ali made a duck in the fifth one-day international on Sunday, and Hasnain took only two wickets in three matches, but Arthur was impressed.
Of Ali, Arthur said, “His attitude, his work ethic, the extra little bit of work he did through the tour was incredible, he’s a hungry man who wants to play for Pakistan.”
Of Hasnain, he added: “We’ve found a young quick bowler that’s going to serve Pakistan well for the years to come.”
The pair, along with Umar Akmal, Junaid Khan, and Usman Shinwari put themselves in World Cup contention. Left at home to recover from minor injuries were regular captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, and Shaheen Afridi.
Arthur has until April 23 to name his World Cup squad, and the fitness of all players will be tested in Lahore in mid-April before a training camp. Arthur said new players such as Ali and Hasnain weren’t yet at the required fitness level.
“The guys with whom we’ve worked for two years and the players who have just come to our system, the gap is massive,” he said. “How we pull those guys to the level is going to rest on themselves … to make sure when they step up into our side they are ready to go.”
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir’s poor form was a worry. Amir has taken just five wickets in his 14 ODIs since Pakistan won the Champions Trophy in 2017. Amir had figures of 0-59 in the first ODI against Australia at Sharjah then was dropped for the remaining four matches.
“I rate Mohammad Amir highly and everybody knows that,” Arthur said. “He would be the first to admit that his form hasn’t been good. It’s not necessarily his form, it’s a fact that he hasn’t struck, he hasn’t taken wickets.”
Power hitting in the death overs was another area in which Arthur believed Pakistan has to work. Left-hander Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan scored two centuries each against Australia along with Ali’s debut hundred. But Pakistan lost the last two games by six and 20 runs respectively as the batsmen could not push the scoring in the last overs.
Once the World Cup squad is named, it leaves for England for five ODIs against the home side and World Cup warm-up matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Its opening World Cup match is on May 31 against the West Indies.
“I can’t promise we’re going to win (the World Cup), but we’re going to give it our very best shot,” Arthur said. “I’m very comfortable with these young boys and how they have gone about their work in the last couple of years. Their preparations and their passion about Pakistan is unquestionable.”