Pakistan's Ahmed likes underdog label for WCup

Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed likes that Pakistan is considered an underdog entering the World Cup beginning next month in England but insisted that despite the label, the 15-member squad is well prepared.

"When a team goes (to the World Cup) as a favorite, I think it's a problem," Ahmed told reporters in Lahore, Pakistan, on Tuesday during the last day of training camp. "We have a good team. We are going as underdogs and it's very good for Pakistan."

Pakistan was ranked last in the Champions Trophy in England two years ago before it won the eight-team event under Ahmed's captaincy, defeating India by a massive 180-run margin in the final.

It will leave Tuesday for England, where it will play a Twenty20 international and five-match ODI series against England before taking on the West Indies in its World Cup opener on May 31.

Pakistan left fast bowler Mohammad Amir out of the World Cup squad but provided the left-armer another opportunity to excel during the ODI series against England.

The ICC set May 23 as the deadline for teams to change their World Cup squad without seeking permission.

Amir, who took 3-16 in the Champions Trophy final, has taken just five wickets in the 14 ODIs in which he has since played. That left the selectors with no other choice than to drop him for the World Cup.

Ahmed hoped Amir could do well during the ODI series against England, but Ahmed said he and coach Mickey Arthur were clear about what the team will be for the World Cup.

"Amir has an opportunity to improve in the coming five-match (series)," Ahmed said. "We have a very good bowling combination as we have picked six fast bowlers to rotate during the ODI series against England."

Also selected were all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, who is yet to fully recover after injuring a hand during the Pakistan Super League, and leg spinner Shadab Khan, who was ruled out of the ODI series against England with an illness.

Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said on Thursday he favored all-rounder Imad Wasim getting a World Cup spot despite also not being fit — a point on which Ahmed agreed.

"Imad Wasim has been struggling with his knee, otherwise he has cleared all his fitness tests," Ahmed said. "We think he is better for our combination and that's why we have selected him."

While 11 of those selected competed in the Champions Trophy, 18-year-old fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain and opening batsman Abid Ali will be playing for the first time in England.

Hasnain, who played with Ahmed for the Quetta Gladiators in the PSL, bowls at an express pace of 150 kph (93 mph). Ali scored a century in his debut ODI against Australia in the United Arab Emirates last month.

Ahmed also spoke fondly of the discussion players had last week with Prime Minister Imran Khan, under whose leadership Pakistan won the World Cup in Australia in 1992.

"It was a very good meeting," Ahmed said. "Imran Khan told us to fight boldly (during the World Cup) and gave us very useful tips during an hour-long meeting."

Like his captain, Arthur also remains hopeful of Pakistan's chances of winning the World Cup a second time.

"We've worked really hard over the past two years and we are well prepared for the event," Arthur said. "We are as prepared as we can be. We have to bring (out) all our capabilities to produce results in our favor."


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