LAHORE - Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman has showed optimism ahead of the high profile clash against arch-rivals India during the upcoming Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The left-handed batsman scored a swash-buckling century in his only outing, so far, against the Men in Blue during the 2017 Champions Trophy Final to lay the platform for a memorable victory.
This will be the first time since that finale when both teams will meet in any international match, and Zaman believes the team which will control its nerves better will stay in the ascendency in the high-pressure encounter.
“Every international match has its own pressure but match against India is a different ball-game altogether,” said Zaman while talking to the media at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Wednesday. “I believe the team which control nerves better will win the contest.”
Zaman has been the highest run scorer for Pakistan with 1065 runs in ODI cricket since making his debut against South Africa during the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 while also holding the record for most sixes (18), fours (129) and the most fifty plus scores (9) during the same span of time.
He is also currently the highest run-scorer for Pakistan in 2018 so far with 665 runs in just nine matches at a staggering average of 133. On a global scale, for openers who have played at least ten ODI matches, Zaman’s average of 76.07 is the highest among all since he made his debut which speaks volumes about his consistency.
In the UAE, Zaman has a slightly disappointing record where he average 29.60 with strike-rate of 84.57 in five innings. But the Mardan-born opener is keen on extending his purple patch to the Asia Cup by utilising his experience of playing in acclimatised conditions.
“We will have a slight advantage over our opposition because UAE is like a home ground to us as we have ample experience of playing cricket there,” he said.
According to CricViz, Fakhar Zaman has the highest average batting match impact in ODIs since the 2015 World Cup. He scores 23 more runs per match than the average ODI batsman batting in the same situation. Zaman scored 515 runs in the ODI series against Zimbabwe which helped him gain a total of 22 places to move into 16th position in the ICC ODI rankings for batsmen.
He also became the fastest player in history of ODI cricket to score 1000 runs after securing the record in 18 innings, which was three fewer than West Indian legend Viv Richards — who held the record for 38 years.
During the same series, the Lahore Qalandars opener also became the first Pakistan batsman and the sixth overall to score a double-ton in ODI cricket. “I will look to continue my good run of form and score runs in every match,” he said. “Like the Zimbabwe series, me and Imam will try to provide team with a good start and take the workload off the middle-order.”
Earlier, India captain Virat Kohli was omitted from the team’s Asia Cup squad by the selectors — citing tiredness as a reason — but Zaman feels that the Men in Blue are a strong enough side to pose a stiff challenge despite the absence of their star batsman.
“Kohli is a world class player but even without him, the Indian team is capable enough to mount a stiff challenge for us,” he said. “Hopefully people will get to witness a good match between the two sides.” Pakistan selection committee head by Chief Selector Inzamamul Haq decided to drop all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez from the Asia Cup squad and instead picked up Shan Masood as the team’s third opener. Masood has been scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket and has an average of 58.21 in List A with the help of ten centuries and 22 fifties.
On the other hand, the player who was dropped in his favour of Masood — Hafeez — did not even feature in a single ODI match during the tour of Zimbabwe despite being part of the squad.
When asked about the exclusion of Hafeez from the Pakistan squad, Zaman cleverly deflected the question stating: “It’s the selectors’ decision and I won’t comment on it till the point I have taken retirement from the game.”
The Asia Cup is scheduled to begin from September 15 with the opening match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Pakistan will play its first match against the team which comes through the qualifying round on September 16, while the Green Caps will lock horns with their nemeses India on September 19.