So it begins: Azhar believes young side can beat Sri Lanka

Skipper says Pakistan will look to keep it simple as Champions Trophy spot up for grabs

Nabeel Hashmi July 10, 2015
The rivals will get their first taste of the new one-day regulations which have no batting powerplay, no compulsory close-in catchers in the opening 10 overs, and allow five fielders outside the circle in the final 10 overs. PHOTO: AFP


With ICC Champions Trophy qualification at stake, Pakistan captain Azhar Ali is confident that the side can win the series against Sri Lanka. However, he conceded that the new rules will be a challenge for him as well as Sri Lankan counterpart Angelo Mathews.

The new ICC rules have given fielding relaxation to the captain and will support the bowlers as it is no longer mandatory to keep two catching fielders in the first 10 overs, while five fielders can be outside the circle in the last 10 overs instead of four.

In addition, free-hits will be awarded on all forms of no-balls and not just on foot violations. “The new playing conditions will certainly be a challenge for both captains in the first two matches because everyone will take time to get used to them,” Azhar told The Express Tribune. “But the changes are certainly less worrying for a captain and the bowlers as they will get that extra bit of protection in a batsman-friendly game. We’ve won a good Test series and the morale in the camp is certainly really high. We believe that we can do well in ODIs too despite some new faces.”

Champions Trophy places up for grabs

The battle for the final two available places in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 heats up as Bangladesh took on South Africa in a three-match ODI series while the first of Pakistan’s five ODIs against Sri Lanka start on Saturday in Dambulla.

With 93 points, Bangladesh currently sit pretty in seventh position on the ICC ODI Team Rankings and need just one win to retain their pre-series points. However, a failure to win any of the matches will result in them dropping to 90 points.

Ninth-ranked Pakistan are on 87 points and will move ahead of the West Indies (88 points) by a fraction of a point if they win the series 3-2. Pakistan can rise to as high as 94 points if they whitewash Sri Lanka, while they will get to 92 with a 4-1 series win. However, if the men in green are whitewashed, then they will drop down to 84 points.

“The plan is to play attacking cricket and not worry about the Champions Trophy qualification as we don’t want to take pressure early on,” said Azhar. “We all know how important this series is but we want to keep things simple. There are few changes in the side but I’m really confident that those who have come in for the seniors and injured players are capable of performing well.”

The recently appointed skipper added that injuries cannot be used as an excuse as their opponents will also have several new faces in their side. “Injures aren’t helpful but we’ve got a very good bunch of players,” he said. “The Sri Lankan team will also not have their two big players, with Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara retired. They are in a similar situation, where they are looking towards youngsters.”

It will be the 30-year-old’s third series as captain and both of the previous two have been historic in their own rights. Pakistan were whitewashed by Bangladesh for the first time in their history in his first assignment, while in his second series, Zimbabwe became the first Test playing nation to play in Pakistan after six years as the men in green won 2-0. “We’ve played two series as new unit after departure of Misbahul Haq and Shahid Afridi and are a much more confident side now,” added the skipper.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.

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