LAHORE        -         Pakistan veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik has said that he was not ambitious about playing upcoming T20 World Cup for the country but he was optimistic his good form may earn him a place.

Talking to the reporters here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday, he said: “I don’t want to think about the World Cup. My selection is for the Bangladesh series and I want to avail every opportunity I get. The World Cup is far away and I don’t focus on goals far away. What is in my hands is my performances that can benefit the team and I’ll focus on that. The youngsters in the team need to be groomed and that’s the priority. The World Cup is far away and I don’t want to focus on that.”

Malik said he knew all of the Bangladesh players through the BPL and his experience would help the team in the T20 series. “I have recently played BPL and saw some of their youngsters, they made a good combination with the seniors. Their team is quite strong and their system is quite strong. Their side is well balanced.”

Praising the batting champion and T20 skipper Babar Azam, Malik said: “With the Pakistan team, in Tests and ODIs, there is some experience missing but when it comes to T20I cricket, we have players who have played a lot of matches. When I go to play leagues, other teams’ player and management praise Babar and it feels nice. Hopefully when other players also get consistent chances, they will also perform like Babar.”

To another query, he lauded the PCB’s decision to award central contract to the youngsters, who had a long future ahead rather than the senior players like M Hafeez and him. “As for Hafeez and myself, we are experienced. The performance is the first priority but we also need to think about the dressing room atmosphere and helping our young captain. We will try to share our experiences with the youngsters in the team.”

The veteran said that the Bangladesh and other cricketers do get feedback on playing in Pakistan, adding that he had always told them to come and play in Pakistan as the people love cricket here and everything was safe. “Whenever we go to any league, we ask other players about Pakistan and they also ask us about how things are in the country. We tell them that if we roam around alone in the country, there is no problem and things are very good now.

“In Pakistan, the security is such that you don’t get anywhere else in the world. Bangladesh players also asked and I told them that they should come and they will enjoy it. Our stadiums, people and media are very supportive and welcoming,” he added.  On Mushfiqur Raheem’s decision not to visit Pakistan citing family pressure, Malik urged him to come to Pakistan for test matches. “Only one player isn’t coming and that’s due to family, that’s personal and I don’t want to comment on that but I will request that if you’re not coming now, please do come next time. I’m sure that when Bangladesh team sees the atmosphere here and the security, they will be able to convince 1-2 cricketers, who didn’t come and next time, they will come.”

Replying to another query, “I want to play as an all-rounder but that depends on the captain and the plan that the team management makes, and the match situation, etc. I am available as an all-rounder and when I am captaining, I try to bowl because that provides an extra edge that helps the team combination.

“I was saying since quite a while that 2019 World Cup was my last ODI tournament and in T20I, I will continue to play until I am fit. I am still enjoying my cricket and I don’t want to make a statement that I will retire after the 2020 T20 World Cup. When I get closer, I will see what happens and make a decision,” Malik concluded.

Meanwhile, Pakistan cricket team remained busy in practice session here at the historical Gaddafi Stadium, where the logo of Pakistan-Bangladesh T20I series was also unveiled by PCB COO Salman Naseer, Director Commercial Babar Hamid and sponsors including Inverex CEO M Zakir and J. Regional Head M Dastagir in a colorful ceremony.

Pakistan players seemed very energetic and excited during the training session as they are eager to give out their best against Bangladesh at the home ground in front of home crowd. Many of the young national team members will play the T20 international at Gaddafi Stadium for the first time while it will also be first T20I for Babar Azam as a captain.

The Gaddafi Stadium has started giving bride look once again as the process of embellishing it is in full swing while the curators remained busy in preparing the pitches for the Bangladesh T20 internationals. The security personals were deployed at the stadium’s surroundings, who will provide the best security to the visitors as well as to the cricket fans and lovers throughout the series.