Sarfraz wants to continue batting at No. 4
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed wants to continue batting at No. 4 in limited-overs cricket.
Sarfraz kicked off his T20I career in 2010 batting at No. 8, and had floated around the middle order without much success; his first 400-odd runs came at an average of about 25. It didn't take much for head coach Mickey Arthur to convince him to bat higher up earlier this year in T20s, a move that worked immediately. The emergence of allrounders Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf to provide cover down the order has also helped Pakistan and Sarfraz make this move. Steady performances at that position could encourage the team management to push him up the order in ODIs as well, ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
"I have been continuously batting at No. 4 [of late] and I would like to continue there," Sarfraz said, as Pakistan prepared for the T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe. "We are basically trying to build ahead of the World Cup. If you look at the ODI side, we haven't made many changes. Fakhar Zaman, Shadab, Haris [Sohail] who is back in the side, Babar Azam at the top, [Mohammad] Hafeez and [Shoaib] Malik are around. So we are settling and it is good that the team is performing and we are going in the right direction with the right combination."
Pakistan, according to Sarfraz, were wary of Australia - the third team in the tri-series - and the conditions in Zimbabwe, but remain confident of performing well. "Our preparation is good. We got a couple of days here (in Lahore) and three days there (in Zimbabwe) to train before the series," he said. "We will definitely go with our best preparation, as in T20s no team is easy to beat.
"We know Australia is a strong team and, although they have got many new players, they know exactly how to adapt themselves.
"I have toured Zimbabwe twice, and on both occasions, the conditions were different. In 2013 it was grassy with some bounce and in 2015 it was slow with moisture. This time around, I've got to know that it will be colder and I feel the toss will be vital. So we need to assess the pitch to make our decisions. Overall, we are in a good position and hopeful of good results. But this tri-series is going to be tough and you can expect some competitive cricket."
Pakistan are currently ranked No. 1 in T20Is; Sarfraz said that did not add any additional pressure on them. "We actually don't really think about being No. 1 or ratings. When we were not No. 1, we never thought about the rankings so all we have to do is to play naturally without getting into such details. I only urge the players to give their best and leave all other things aside.
"The boys are backing each other and this is something that's quite evident in the field. Even if someone fields well in the covers or at the boundaries, or has taken a good catch, they all respond to it and back each other up."
Following the T20I tri-series, Pakistan will play a five-match ODI series in Zimbabwe. Sarfraz admitted to being under pressure as an all-format captain, but said he tries to quell that with his on-field performances.
"Obviously as a captain you are under pressure because you have to look around at a lot of things, but I always look to grab an opportunity to lead from the front. Whenever I get a chance, I try to win the game with my contribution. I am aware of my individual form and I've been working hard to contribute with both the bat and behind the wicket."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent