Lahore: Pakistan's newly-appointed Twenty20 captain Mohammad Hafeez believes his players face a tough challenge against Sri Lanka in the coming series as they have been deprived of an opportunity to enhance their skills by not being invited to play in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).
"My concern is that we last played an international series against England in February and since then we have focussed on domestic cricket events," Hafeez said. "But in comparison, players from other international teams are taking part in the IPL, particularly the Sri Lankan players and that means they have a slight edge over us. If you compare the whole [cricketing-playing] world with us, everyone is there in the IPL getting practice in intense scenarios and enhancing their skills. But our players are missing out on that opportunity," he added.
He said this was the main reason why a conditioning camp had been set up for the players selected for Sri Lanka in Lahore despite the heat and humidity. Interestingly, Hafeez didn't take part in the national Super Eights Twenty20 event in Rawalpindi, although most of the other Pakistan team players appeared in it and made good impressions.
Rookies like Shakil Ansar, Reza Hasan and Haris Sohail have won spots in the Pakistan Twenty20 squad for Sri Lanka on the basis of their showing in the event and the national selectors also recalled openers Khalid Latif and Ahmed Shahzad because of their fine form in the competition.
While Pakistani players have not been invited for the IPL in its last four editions, several Sri Lankan players are taking part in the lucrative league this year, including Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekera and Lasith Malinga. Some of them like Dinesh Chandimal and Thisara Perrera are also part of other franchises, though they haven’t got a few games to show their skills. Pakistan's last T20 series was against England in the UAE when they lost 0-3.
The Pakistan selectors, in consultation with coach Dav Whatmore, have picked a new-look squad for the Sri Lanka tour. Hafeez said the coming tour would be a demanding one but also a good opportunity for the youngsters and other players making their comeback to cement their places in the side. "Overall, we have a new but exciting combination for the Twenty20 matches and it will be interesting to see how they adjust to the challenge ahead."
Hafeez said he had no doubt that he would have to play an enhanced role as captain and senior player in the Twenty20 series and set an example. He said the team would miss the experience of senior batsmen like Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan but one had to move on.