Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur is confident new players will grab the opportunity to fill a few available places for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 through the five-match ODI series against Australia starting in Sharjah on 22 March, Friday.
Pakistan have rested six players – captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan – to provide an opportunity to the other leading performers to stake a claim for the tournament to be held in England and Wales from 30 May and 14 July.
Mickey believed it was a well-thought out and a sensible decision.
“We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players,” said Mickey.
“There was planning, sometimes people think that its ad hoc. We want to test our bench-strength so that we could have a look at our final squad and combination. We know our major players for the World Cup.”
Openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali have been prolific scorers in domestic and “A” series, while batsman Saad Ali scored 900 plus runs in the 2017-18 first-class season.
Paceman Mohammad Abbas is an established Test spearhead who has the knock of doing well in limited overs as well. Rookie 18-year-old Mohammad Hasnain has impressed with his pace in the recently concluded HBL Pakistan Super League.
Middle-order batsman Umar Akmal has also been recalled after impressing with his match fitness in the HBL PSL.
“After this series, we go to England and there we go with a very very settled squad and the roles will be defined. We want to know where the squad stands. We felt that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup.”
Pakistan also plays five one-day internationals against England before the 10-team mega event.
Mickey believes trying new players will help in long term.
“For us, it isn’t so much about Australia, this is about us and 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.
“To be honest, 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. There are probably four available. Inzamam-ul-Haq 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.”
Mickey backed the decision to rest skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and five others.
“Sarfaraz needs rest,” said Mickey of the skipper of Pakistan across all three formats.
“As do Babar Azam and all the guys that are resting. I was telling the Australian boys we have been in the hotels since 12 September. (if) we just keep playing our guys, they gonna get injured and fatigued.
“We will have a series in England, which will give us a perfect preparation for us going into the World Cup and we would have been silly not to use this series as a rest going into the biggest challenge, the World Cup.”
Mickey, who also coached South Africa and Australia, believes Australia are a resurging side after a turbulent period in the wake of last year’s ball tampering episode.
“Australia are a fantastic side and they have bubbled away, they have gone through much publicised crisis and they seem to be playing some very good cricket at the moment.
“To win the series from 0-2 down was a fantastic achievement,” said Mickey of Australia’s 3-2 ODI series win in India before this tour. “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.”