Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan head coach, has made clear his objective for the upcoming ODI series against Australia: “We want to test our best bench players.”
Arthur isn’t worried about the fact that Australia came away from India with a 3-2 victory. He is more concerned about his own team’s preparations for the World Cup 2019, and while he has an idea about who his players are for the big event, there are still some holes to fill.
“We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players,” said Arthur. “We know our major players for the World Cup. After this series, we go to England and we go there with a very settled squad and the roles will be defined.
“The timing of Australian’s upturn in form, with a World Cup just over two months away, could hardly be better.”@Yas_Wisden looks at where the Australia’s 3-2 series win leaves both Australia and India this close to the World Cup. https://t.co/TPMEdYoXfQ
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) March 14, 2019
“We want to know where the squad stands. We feel that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup.”
“For us, it isn’t so much about Australia. This is about those positions for the World Cup and the opportunity created for a lot of players because for us, we need to find who our players are for every position. If we could do that out of this series, then it would be good for us.”
Pakistan lost a hard-fought ODI series against South Africa in January – but there were encouraging signs throughout the tour, with both batting and bowling coming together nicely as the series progressed.
However, Arthur said four positions in the 15-member World Cup squad were still up for grabs, and that carrot will be dangled in front of the fringe players during the Australia ODIs, with the likes of Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain, and Babar Azam set to be rested.
“It’s a new squad. This is a series of opportunities. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that a few positions are available for the World Cup,” he said. “There are probably four available.
“Inzamam-ul-Haq [selector] and I have discussed that. So, these young players need to raise their hands up and try make those places their own. It’s an exciting time going into the World Cup.”
All said, Arthur is also aware of the need to build and maintain a winning side and he won’t take Australia lightly. “Australia are a fantastic side and they have bubbled away, they have gone through much publicised crises and they seem to be playing some very good cricket at the moment,” said Arthur.
“To win the series [against India] from 0-2 down was a fantastic achievement. They have got some fine players, (Usman) Khawaja is in good nick, Pat Cummins is in good nick. They have some good young guys. I am sure they will rotate their players through the series as they also need their major players firing.”
The ODI series starts on Friday, March 22, in Sharjah.