Pakistan players may have missed the Indian Premier League (IPL) but enough preparations have been made to equip the team ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy — the last edition of the 50-over event.
A tough tour of South Africa followed by the domestic one-day event and a training camp in Abbottabad has prepared the team well as it flew to the UK last night.
After playing One-Day International (ODI) series against Scotland and Ireland, comprising two matches each, Misbah’s men will take on the West Indies, South Africa and world champions India in Group B games at the Champions Trophy to begin from June 6 in England.
I am very hopeful: Misbah
Despite being placed in a tough group, Pakistan are confident of winning the title, said captain Misbahul Haq.
“I’m hopeful,” said Misbah on the eve of the team’s departure. “The conditions in South Africa were tough and that will help us in England. The conditions are not going to be tougher than what we’ve already experienced and I think we’re ready for the Champions Trophy.
“We have a young team but I am confident the players will do well. Our youngsters have a history of doing well in major competitions. It is a balanced squad and if we get pacer-friendly pitches we have Junaid [Khan] and [Mohammad] Irfan who have been performing well. We have quality spinners as well and I’m confident that our top-order will do well too.”
However, Misbah expressed concern over the batting form of the team’s lower-order.
“This is an aspect on which the coaches have worked on a lot because we’ll need them to contribute with the bat especially in the absence of all-rounders like Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq.”
‘No one’s the favourite’
The Pakistan captain also refused to rate any team favourite for the upcoming tournament.
“There are no favourites in Twenty20s and ODIs. The team that plays well on the day will be successful. We are not bothered by the presence of tough teams in our group as the team is ready to face all obstacles.”
The captain added that matches against Scotland and Ireland will help the players acclimatise with the conditions.
To a query on Trent Woodhill’s appointment, Misbah hoped the new batting coach will bring improvement in the team.
Head coach Dav Whatmore also reiterated the team’s aim of winning the title.
“Our intent is to win in every series and this tournament is no different,” said Whatmore.
‘Spot-fixing scandal still haunts’
Pakistan manager Naved Akram Cheema termed the upcoming tour of England sensitive as team will return to the country for the first time after the infamous 2010 spot-fixing case.
Pakistan cricket hit a new low during their last England tour following the spot-fixing scandal that saw former captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif being jailed and banned from cricket.
Three years on, the scandal still haunts Pakistan as Cheema said special preparations were made to avoid controversy. “It’s a sensitive tour,” said the manager. “We have briefed the players and they’re aware of the importance of this tour. Besides, efforts were also made to raise their motivation level. There can be people with vested interests who can malign our name to put us under pressure during the Champions Trophy.” However, the manager hoped the team will come out of the tour unscathed.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2013.