ISLAMABAD - Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif has hoped that opening batsman Fakhar Zaman can help Pakistan win the ICC 2019 World Cup.

Talking to The Nation, Rashid said: “Although the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe was not as competitive as competing against other cricketing powerhouses, but still whitewash is not an easy task and especially playing the hosts at their home grounds. I feel green caps played superb cricket and credit must be given to entire team and management, while young guns once again showed tremendous fighting skills and hunger to excel at any given situation, which was missing since long.”

Latif said he gave too much importance to tri-nation series involving Australia, as it was highly significant for both Pakistan and Australia. Pakistan were almost playing with full strength, while Australia was under strength, but the way green caps played out their heart and the day Fakhar Zaman had made his debut was outstanding. 

“Fakhar is flourishing with each passing day as he is a great batsman of T20I and ODI formats. He played superbly against India in the Champions Trophy and he is performing consistently and making a lot of records, which shows he is capable enough to deliver for the country during the next year’s World Cup,” he added.

The former cricketer said Pakistan is at top of ICC rankings in T20Is and besides Fakhar, Imam-ul-Haq is also showing a lot of character and maturity and after very long gap, Pakistan have find a superb opening combination, which is scoring loads of runs and providing much-needed stability at the top, which was missing since long. “Pakistan team was losing matches before this opening pair while Hafeez should also deserve to be in playing XI, which is a huge injustice to him. I feel M Aamir should have only played tri-series and he should have been given rest against Zimbabwe.”

He said Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy and wicket-keeping are improving with each passing day.

“Sarfraz must bat at a place, where he feels better and can deliver. I can feel with such consistent performances, Pakistan team can pose serious challenge to any given team and has bright chances of defeating top 4 including England, Australia, South Africa and India. Asia Cup is also just round the corner and green caps have a lot of chances to improve further, while the selectors and team management still have time to finalise their World Cup-bound squad.” Latif said Pakistan is highly fortunate to have some stern tests of their available resources, as they have to play Test and ODIs against South Africa and Australia, which will really help them get exposure and rectify their mistakes. It can also be checked that if the wicket of Fakhar falls early, whether Pakistan team able to score big runs or chase down huge targets.

“I can easily claim that Pakistan team rely and revolve around Fakhar while Faheem Ashraf, Shadab and Usman Shinwari have improved a lot and taking wickets, which was required from them. The worrying sign for me is M Aamir, who is not providing breakthroughs up front. Aamir has to take wickets at the top, which will send positive waves in other bowlers and warning signals for all the opponents,” he added.

The former captain said as far as batting is concerned, with Fakhar firing all cylinders and punishing bowlers at will, he, along with another impressive opener Imam-ul-Haq, has strengthened Pakistan batting while Babar Azam and other senior batsmen are also doing well, due to which Pakistan batting is stable enough. Now our batsmen must give such consistent performances against big nations so that we may succeed in taming them all in the mega cricketing event next year.

“Fielding is also improving but there is still room for further improvement. I congratulate the PCB, captain, players, team management and coaches for their record-breaking victories and series triumph and hope they will carry on with the good work and provide more to cheer about,” Latif concluded.