Pakistan has much riding on Zimbabwe cricket tour

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif says the current team has a long way to go to climb the ODI rankings from ...
Reuters

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif says the current team has a long way to go to climb the ODI rankings from world No 9.

Zimbabwe touch down next week, the first test-playing cricket team to visit Pakistan in more than six years.

The anticipation is building, heightened by a delay in selling tickets until Friday for all five limited-overs games at the 27,000-seat Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

The desire of Pakistan fans starved of internationals on their home grounds should sell out the three one-day internationals and two Twenty20s from May 22-29.

The International Cricket Council is not expected to send its match officials for a tour in which the security has been deemed "unmanageable" by the international players' body.

While the tour is more about proving to the other test-playing nations that Pakistan is safe to play in again following the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team convoy, the home team will also use Zimbabwe to try to improve its credibility after a woeful run of limited-overs results.

Pakistan has slipped to its lowest ever ODI world ranking of No 9, two above Zimbabwe, after a shambolic 3-0 first-ever defeat in Bangladesh in April.

"The focus is, of course, on organising a series without any security problems, but it's hard to swallow the defeat against Bangladesh, too," former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif said.

"Pakistan should not repeat the same performance in front of their home fans."

The drop in the rankings has put Pakistan's place in doubt for next year's Champions Trophy, as only the top eight ranked teams will compete.

The team is in rebuild mode. Senior pros Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi quit ODIs after the Cricket World Cup and seasoned batsman Younis Khan was rested from the three-match series against Bangladesh.

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Latif was critical of the decision to elevate Azhar Ali to captain, and still wasn't a fan even after the new skipper scored a century against Bangladesh.

"Look, we need an aggressive captain who could bat with a good strike rate, and Azhar Ali is, for sure, not one of them," Latif said.

Injuries also dented Pakistan's plans against Bangladesh, and board chairman Shaharyar Khan last week termed the fitness of the team as the "worst in the world".

Under coach Waqar Younis, the team has lost its five most recent ODI series; New Zealand (home and away), Sri Lanka, Australia, and Bangladesh.

"Had I been in Waqar's place, I would have resigned after what happened in Bangladesh," Latif said.

"Pakistan needs a local coach who knows the strength of domestic cricketers and not someone like Waqar, who hardly knows which cricketer is performing on the domestic circuit."

 - AP

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