In Nature, Change The Window Prevented Us From Improving The CNR - Sarfaraz Ahmed > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Change in nature of wickets kept us from improving NRR - Sarfaraz Ahmed

Net Run Rate cost Pakistan a spot in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup

Despite being level on points with one of the semi-finalists, New Zealand, Pakistan were forced to bow out of the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2019 as they lagged behind on the Net Run Rate (NRR). They are the first team that failed to qualify for the semi-final despite registering four consecutive wins. The seeds for their early ouster were sown in the tournament opener - a heavy thrashing by the West Indies had had such an abysmal impact on their NRR that it stayed in negative despite five wins, a few of which were convincing.

In his first press conference after landing in Karachi, Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, revealed that there were plans in place to improve that metric but the change in the nature of wickets towards the end of the round-robin stage couldn't allow his team to execute them.

"It was present in our mind that we have to make the most of any opportunity that comes to us to improve the [net] run rate," Sarfaraz told reporters at Karachi's National Stadium on Sunday (July 7).

On a spitting Headingly wicket, Pakistan restricted Afghanistan to 227/9 which they chased down on the third last ball of their innings in arguably the most thrilling match of the tournament.

"We wanted to improve our run rate against Afghanistan. But the behaviour of the pitches had changed drastically. The pitches had gotten slow because of which that match went into the last over."

Pakistan were required to pull off an improbable victory in their last group match, which required them to beat Bangladesh by more than 300 runs, to secure a semi-final berth. The equation dominated every discourse surrounding that contest. Sarfaraz was misreported to have stated in the pre-match press conference that he eyed a score of 500.

Taking the opportunity to clear the air, Sarfaraz said: "I had never said that we will score 500. In fact, I had said that it would need a miracle for us to score 500 and get the other team out on 100. Someone in the ground told me 'Come on, Sarfaraz, we have to score 500'. And I said, 'Well, okay'."

Pakistan's World Cup campaign oscillated from extremes. The nadirs brought forward harshest of the backlashes and the highs - the last one - made the cricketing greats call for the head to head results to be considered for the qualification instead of the NRR as they had beaten New Zealand by six wickets in an epic comeback after their defeat to India.

"It is unfortunate that we couldn't qualify due to the NRR. But, I am happy with every player. Everyone, regardless of being senior or junior, contributed. I am also thankful to the coaching staff as well. They are normally behind the scenes and don't get credit. But, I am thankful to them and especially Mickey Arthur who kept things together in difficult times.

"We couldn't do well against the West Indies in our tournament opener, but gained momentum by beating England, the home team and the favourites. Because of the delay in our next match, due to a washout against Sri Lanka, we had lost that momentum and it reflected in our performances against Australia and India.

"The performances overall have been good. The most junior bowler picked up 16 wickets. Babar Azam playing his first World Cup batted brilliantly and scored a century and half centuries. As a team, we put up a great fight, it is unfortunate we couldn't qualify."

Pakistan struggled to pen down their best playing XI till the time the faced South Africa at Lord's - a week after the defeat to India. They had made as many as seven changes and not played a single lineup for two consecutive matches by then. But, once they were able to determine their best possible lineup, Pakistan well and truly lit up the tournament.

It, however, wasn't only the matter of striking the right combinations. Sarfaraz revealed that an only players' team meeting - after the Indian defeat - helped to lay down the course for the last four matches.

"It was really difficult for us to cope with the things that happened in the next seven days [after the loss to India]," he said. "We spent a very tough time both on and off field. It wasn't only me who was subjected to slurring, but many other players were also targeted in the malls, etc. Some things that happened did not come to the fore and we have reported them to the management. There's always criticism when you play poorly and we did play poorly initially.

"A lot of things happened after the India game which was hurtful to the players. We were also distressed by that defeat like every fan. We took a couple of days off after that match. I wanted to talk to the players myself. I told players that our coaching staff is doing their best to prepare us for the matches but we as players are lacking. Every player gave their opinion and we discussed what needs to be done in the next matches.

"I give a great deal of credit to the players because of how they turned up after that meeting. All the wins from that point were due to team effort. Even a player scoring 10 or 15 had a great bearing on the final result."

Sarfaraz's decision to bat down the order remained under scrutiny. Prior to Pakistan's departure for England two months ago, he had said that he would bat at number five. It is his ability to keep the scoreboard ticking with the rotation of strike that there had been calls for him to bat up the order. He has also done well batting in upper middle-order. But, Sarfaraz positioned himself at number six for the most part of the tournament.

"I played at five with Mohammad Hafeez at four and Shoaib Malik six in the initial matches. But, we had to change our team combination mid-way. And, the player [Haris Sohail] that we had brought in was a top-order batsman and I had to give him a chance above in the order. He plays well in the above numbers which also reflected from his performances."

There have been calls to curtail Sarfaraz's captaincy responsibilities, with some asking him to be limited as the leader of the T20I format only. They have now intensified. His performance as well as that of the coaching staff and the selection committee will be reviewed by a cricket committee. Cricbuzz understands that the committee will meet in the last week of July.

He was asked several times regarding his future as a captain of the Pakistan side. Every time, he replied that the ball was in the board's court as they were the ones who gave him the responsibility in the first place. He, however, termed the performance of his side as 'good' and rubbished rumours of not being provided the team of his liking.

And, of course, there was a reporter who mentioned the uncanny similarities between the 1992 and 2019 campaigns. The reason, Sarfaraz joked, for this one not ending with the coveted trophy in the Pakistan captain's hands was that "Afghanistan and Bangladesh were not there in the 1992".

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