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Cricket news - Lack of power-hitting an area of worry - Mickey Arthur

On his return to the national set-up, Umar Akmal managed only 150 runs in five matches and attracted a fine and an official reprimand for a disciplinary breach

Despite power-hitting now an integral part in white-ball cricket, Pakistan continue to lack the batsmen who can cause an upsurge in the scoring rate at will. The five-match ODI series against Australia in the UAE, in which they were whitewashed, put this very issue under scanner. They were found 40-50 runs short when they batted first and failed to keep up with the required run-rate during chases.

"That's one of our areas of concern," said Mickey Arthur when asked about the issue after returning to Lahore. "We have to make sure that we get our guys to bat in those positions as best as they can. That's the reason we used Faheem Ashraf in two games. He has done hell of a work in that regard and we wanted to give him more batting time. We have worked really hard with Imad Wasim in that role. Hasan [Ali] can hit the ball long distances. Shadab [Khan] has worked extremely hard on that aspect of his game. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez have worked consistently on their power-hitting. But, it is an area that is a worry and we have to work extremely hard to rectify it."

This was termed to be a 'series of opportunity' for the players on the fringes of the national side. But, to Pakistan's woes, none of them, after the series, can be identified as the ones who can serve as power-hitters in near future.

Pakistan, in July last year, inducted Asif Ali in the one-day side to deal with the issue. He, however, was dropped 11 matches, which included series against Zimbabwe and New Zealand and the Asia Cup, later mainly for failing to adapt according to the demands of the format as he struggled to prolong his stay at the crease.

"Asif Ali is a phenomenal cricketer, but has a way to go in terms of developing innings," said Arthur. "In one-day cricket you have to build innings a little bit longer. We will keep developing Asif and he has the potential to be at no.6 for us."

Had Umar Akmal lived up to the expectation in his return series, it might have solved the problem. But, Akmal managed only 150 runs in five matches and attracted a fine and an official reprimand for a disciplinary breach.

"Umar Akmal's attitude through the tour was very good," said of the 28-year-old. "He worked exceptionally hard, trained hard, and tried very hard to impress in all areas. He'll be disappointed that he didn't get a big innings."

The pair of Arthur and Inzamam-ul-Haq, the national chief selector, starting today, will begin work to finalise the squad for Pakistan's World Cup campaign which kicks off on May 31 against the Windies. Arthur revealed that they were clear about the direction they have to take and for the purpose the head coach will receive individual plans for the players, ranging from skills to fitness, from the coaches. The players will undergo a fitness test on either April 14 or 15 and will go to a training camp the next day.

"I've already asked our skill coaches to give me what they think is necessary for our players. That might be working on death bowling, on variations or bowling slower balls. Power-hitting is the one on which we need to work constantly. So, I've asked the skill coaches to give me those plans and we will start implementing in the next couple of days.

"Plus, we need our players to have optimum fitness levels. We saw the difference in the field between our normal players, the guys with whom we've worked for two years, and the players who have just came to our system. The gap is massive, we can't have that happen ever again."

Pakistan leave for England on April 23 and in the build up to the World Cup, Pakistan play as many as 11 matches -a T20I and five ODIs against England, three one-dayers against county sides, and two World Cup warm-ups.

"I can promise that they will be the best prepared squad that's ever left the Pakistan shore to go and represent this very passionate country in a cricket World Cup," said Arthur.

"Our side will be the best prepared team against England. Preparations don't always account for results, but it gives us a better chance to getting those results. We will leave no stone unturned in our quest for the World Cup."

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