Mickey Arthur backs Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed

Updated 08 February 2019
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Mickey Arthur backs Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed

LAHORE: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur said it was time to move on from captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s four-match ban for a racial taunt and concentrate on winning World Cup.
Sarfraz was reaffirmed on Tuesday as captain to the end of the World Cup in July, despite the Pakistan Cricket Board saying its policy was to name the captain on a series-to-series basis.
Pakistan media have questioned the Sarfraz decision, including whether it was a political riposte at the ICC for banning Sarfraz.
But Arthur said: “We’ve made that decision because we are very comfortable with Sarfraz leading this team forward. There’s clarity, there’s no more speculation.”
Private broadcaster Geo News wondered whether the PCB did a U-turn or succumbed to pressure from unnamed quarters.
On the national team’s return on Friday from the tour of South Africa, Arthur said PCB chairman Ehsan Mani talked with him and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq before reappointing Sarfraz as captain.
“We’ve made that decision because we are very comfortable with Sarfraz leading this team forward,” Arthur said in Lahore. “There’s clarity, there’s no more speculation.”
Sarfraz was banned for racially taunting South Africa allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo in an ODI last month in Durban. He returned home and missed the last two one-day internationals and the entire three-match Twenty20 series.
“What he did was wrong and it was worked through,” Arthur said. “Saffy took it on the chin, he apologized, he moved forward, everything was handled properly.”
Arthur believed Sarfraz’s main job is wicketkeeping, and he was not worried about his captain’s dip in batting form.
“He (Sarfraz) has dropped eight balls in four and a half months, so he is not out of form in his core job,” Arthur said. “I’m not, and I want to reiterate, not worried about Sarfraz Ahmed’s (batting) form.”
Pakistan lost the test, ODI, and T20 series in South Africa.
While Arthur acknowledged Pakistan needed to improve a lot in Test matches, he was disappointed to lose the ODIs 3-2 and the T20s 2-1.
“We thought we were as good as South Africa in those conditions,” he said.
Arthur criticized the test pitches as none of the games went to the fifth day. But Arthur said Pakistan was not the only team which has struggled in South Africa.
“I don’t think there’s any coincidence that no Asian team has won a Test series in South Africa,” he said. “So we know we’ve got a lot of work to do with our test side.”
He picked out Babar Azam for praise, for becoming the batting mainstay in white-ball cricket.
“South Africa is the toughest place to bat ... to see Babar Azam’s development across all formats on this tour was simply amazing and I think was something to be proud,” he said.
The South African-born Arthur said he had a pool of about 20 players from which the final 15 will be picked for the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.
“We’re probably ahead of lot of other teams ... we have condensed our pool and now have to finalize it after the Australia tour (in March), so we are pretty much on track.”


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 20 February 2019
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.