Pakistan all-rounder Sarfraz Ahmed has backed veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik to contribute more with the ball and serve as a cover for suspended Mohammad Hafeez in the upcoming limited-overs series, beginning January 6 at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. In November, Hafeez was suspended from bowling in international cricket for the third time in three years after the International Cricket Council (ICC) found his bowling action to be illegal.
Though Sarfraz admitted that Hafeez's loss before such a tricky series against New Zealand was a major blow for Pakistan, he was hoping for a fine job from Malik.
"This was a setback for the team but I am confident that the plan PCB has devised for rectification of Hafeez's action will help him clear (the next test). In the meantime, Shoaib Malik will pitch in with the ball during the middle orders. We're very hopeful that he'll do a fine job in Hafeez's absence," said Sarfraz, as media reports suggest.
The skipper also reflected on the inclusion of Harris Sohail and Mohammad Nawaz in the squad, saying the two have a different role to play and hinted there were chances of both the players being picked.
"We mainly consider Harris a batsman-bowler, whereas Nawaz is in the side as a bowling all-rounder. Now it depends on how we play over there and whether we use four bowlers or five. Team selection will depend on the pitches there," Sarfraz said.
Talking about their preparation for the tour, Sarfraz said that his side was looking forward to play positive as well as attacking cricket.
"We want to play positive cricket. In places such as New Zealand, if you don't play attacking cricket, bowlers usually get the upper hand," he said.
Sarfraz also heaped praise on his side's batting unit, saying that not only was their bowling strong but that their batsmen have also performed exceeding well in the recent times.
"Pakistan's bowling has always been strong but our batsmen have also been doing well since the West Indies tour.Yes, we couldn't score that big against India - but against South Africa and Sri Lanka, our batsmen did contribute. Mind you, we now also have depth in our batting: Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Fahim Ashraf are all batting very well," he said.
The five-match ODI series between Pakistan and New Zealand will be played between January 6 and 19 in Wellington before the two sides head into a two-match T20I series on January 25 in Auckland.
(With ANI Inputs)