ISLAMABAD  -  Former Pakistan captain and chief selector Rashid Latif lauded Pakistan cricket team’s performance in the Tri-nation series in Zimbabwe and hoped that this victory will boost Pakistan morale ahead of Zimbabwe ODIs and 2019 World Cup.

Talking to The Nation, Latif congratulated Sarfraz Ahmed and PCB for winning the tri-series and especially defeating cricket powerhouse Australia twice on way to winning the finals. “It is true that Australia is struggling at the moment, but the green caps inflicted more miseries on them. Australians had kept in mind the next year’s Cricket World Cup and that’s why they gave chances to few fresh faces. The likes of Warner, Smith, Starc and Josh Hazlewood will stage comeback, so they have liberty of almost completing the final pick for the 2019 World Cup.

“But what about Pakistan, we have had almost same team, which is going to play the next year’s world cup. We have space vacant at the opening department and the question is who is going to fill that void? Babar Azam will return after injury and Azhar Ali is also set to be picked for the World Cup while the remaining places are bound to be occupied by same players, who are involved in ODIs and T20 Internationals,” he added.

Latif said that the credit goes to Sarfraz for his superb captaincy, as he rotated his options well and led from the front. “Sarfraz’ captaincy and decision making against Australia was outstanding. When Pakistan was simply outclassed by the Kangaroos in the first pool match, many pundits had already written off Pakistan’s chances, but Sarfraz XI staged tremendous comeback and proved their critics wrong. Fakhar Zaman must be given 50 percent credit for helping green caps lift the tri-series, especially he played extremely well against Australia and put their bowlers under tremendous pressure and helped his team win the tri-series trophy.

“Another youngster Shahdab Khan was simply world class, as he showed fighting skills and never looked shy of experiments, which resulted in boosting his confidence. It was a lesson for coming players that they should never show emotions and try to give their best. The Aussies are well-known for attacking the opposition bowlers, but Shahdab, despite being hit for few runs, staged sensational comeback and provided key breakthroughs,” he added.

Latif said besides Fakhar and Shahdab, Faheem and Aamir also bowled superbly and Shoaib Malik once again showed why he is important in the middle. “The question here arises that whether we are ready for the World Cup. Aussies have 6 top class players to stage comeback, who will sneak in the green caps final world cup squad, Shan Maqsood or Rumman Raees? Are we in our full strength? I am not criticising, but we have to keep a close eye on who is going to make it to the final world cup squad.

“It is very long season ahead for Pakistan cricket team. We have to learn and ensure gradual improvements. We need to bring in a few changes in the One-Day series against Zimbabwe. Pakistan team can afford experiments at this stage and I am sure coach and team management must have kept these things in mind and will enter the ODI series with different game plan.

“I wish good luck to team Pakistan and hope they will come up with same performances in the ODIs. The signs are positive and team is prevailing and gelling well, while Sarfraz is utilising his options quite well. I am sure green caps will win the ODI series comfortably and then prepare for next assignments well,” Latif concluded.