Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

In this file photo, Pakistani cricket team captain Sarfraz Ahmed gestures during a press conference in Lahore on Dec. 26, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

  • Fawad Alam is a seasoned player, but the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well, says Pakistani skipper
  • Former test opener Ramiz Raja claims there are flaws in Alam’s batting technique

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has defended the 16-man national squad for tours of Ireland and England as the “best of the best” despite criticism over the omission of batsman Fawad Alam.
“It’s not like I voted him (Alam) out,” Ahmed said on the last day of Pakistan’s training camp in Lahore on Saturday, adding that “I would have picked all the 25 ... but we had to pick the best of the best 16 players.”
Wasim Akram was among several former Pakistan test players who have criticized selectors for ignoring Alam in the middle order — especially since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have now retired.
Alam was among 25 players called up for the camp after scoring consistently on the domestic circuit, but he failed to make the final squad.
Former test opener Ramiz Raja claimed there were flaws in Alam’s batting technique and that he would not have considered the left-hander, considering the tough conditions in England.
Ahmed played down the dispute.
“People can make as much reasons to talk, but there is nothing like flaws in anyone’s batting technique,” Ahmed said. “If you look back, Fawad had played a test in 2009 and he is a seasoned player ... (but) the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well.”
Ahmed said it had been a “unanimous decision” by coach, captain and selectors.
Pakistan has included uncapped batsmen Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali in the final 16, as well as Fakhar Zaman, who has done well in limited-overs cricket but is yet to play a test match.
Misbah and Younis will be missed on a tour of England where Misbah scored a century at Lord’s in 2016 and Younis made 218 at The Oval in the fourth test to draw the series 2-2.
Pakistan has two four-day matches against Kent and Northamptonshire before meeting Ireland in a one-off test at Dublin, starting May 11. It plays two tests against England, starting May 24.
Pakistan will also play Scotland on June 12-13 in two Twenty20 Internationals.
Pakistan faced a major blow when its premier legspinner Yasir Shah was ruled out due to injury. However, Ahmed said he wasn’t sure that Shadab Khan, who has played just one test match, would make it to the final team with the English conditions more suitable for pace.
“The weather will be much cooler and I am not even sure if we are going to play a spinner,” Ahmed said.


FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

Updated 18 March 2019
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FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED: More Lionel Messi magic, Juve miss Cristiano Ronaldo and Ajax title wait set to continue

LONDON: Zinedine Zidane marked his return to the Real Madrid dugout with a victory although Lionel Messi again stole the show in Spain with a magnificent hat-trick as Barcelona continued their march toward the La Liga title. Here we look at what we learned from the weekend’s key action across the continent:

ZIZOU BACK AND MAGIC MESSI

Zinedine Zidane may have made a winning start to his second spell as coach of Real Madrid but Barcelona look to have the La Liga title already sewn up. Barca blew away Real Betis 4-1 on Sunday as Lionel Messi scored his fourth hat-trick of the season and 51st of his career, prompting even the Betis fans to stand and applaud. The Catalans now have a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who were beaten 2-0 by Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, four days after their Champions League heartache at the hands of Juventus.Real’s hopes of catching Barcelona were already all but over but Zidane has at least lifted the gloom. He recalled a handful of old favorites against Celta Vigo on Saturday, including Isco, who scored the opener, before Gareth Bale — who was not always appreciated by Zidane in the coach’s first spell — added another in a 2-0 victory.

Zidane enjoyed a winning start to his second reign as Real Madrid boss. (AFP)

SPALLETTI SAFE?

Under-fire Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti hit back at his critics with a dramatic 3-2 Milan derby win which lifted his side to third in Serie A. For Spalletti it was a third derby win in four since taking over in mid-2017, and just days after crashing out of the Europa League, as Inter extended their unbeaten run in the derby to six games, their longest run since 1999. “I read that this was to be my last derby, the ‘Last Supper’,” said the former Roma and Zenit Saint Petersburg coach. “And instead I know that there’s another supper for me,” he added, after being praised by Chinese-owned Inter’s president Steven Zhang. “We’re now already looking to the future, to the next match and next month,” said Zhang. “This derby sends an important message.” Juventus, without Cristiano Ronaldo, fell to their first Serie A defeat of the season in a 2-0 reverse to Genoa but still have a 15-point lead.

Inter extended their unbeaten run in the Milan derby to six games, their longest run since 1999​. (AFP) 

BAYERN’S YOUNG GUN

Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies became the youngest Bayern Munich goalscorer since Roque Santa Cruz in 1999, a year before the former was even born, in Sunday’s 6-0 demolition of Mainz. Bayern are level on points with Borussia Dortmund as they bid for an eighth successive Bundesliga title, but the meek nature of their Champions League exit against Liverpool posed questions about the future of a number of aging stars. With a clear-out on the horizon in Bavaria, the 18-year-old Davies, acquired last July in a $13 million move from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, could soon be given the opportunity to stake his claim as a core component in a new Bayern generation.

Alphonso Davies is making a name for himself at the Allianz Arena. (AFP)

LIGHT AT END OF ROAD FOR MONACO

With their Ligue 1 status under threat, Monaco’s decision to cut short a failing experiment with Thierry Henry in January and replace him with predecessor Leonardo Jardim has paid off handsomely. Friday’s 1-0 win at second-place Lille, enjoying their best points return at this stage of the campaign since 1948, extended Monaco’s unbeaten run since his return to seven games in Ligue 1. They remain just two places above the relegation play-off spot but are eight points clear of Guingamp and recent form suggests they will surely avoid the drop.

Under Jardim Monaco are making a very impressive tilt at avoiding relegation. (AFP) 

TITLE WAIT FOR AJAX LOOKS SET TO CONTINUE

Champions League quarter-finalists Ajax slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie to drop five points behind leaders PSV Eindhoven. PSV won 1-0 at VVV Venlo over the weekend courtesy of a late strike by Mexico international Hirving Lozano. Ajax, who won the last of their record 33 Dutch championships in 2014, must now win their clash with PSV in Amsterdam on March 31 if they are to remain in the title race.

Are Ajax and Daley Blind to go anohter year without winning the Dutch title? (AFP)