Grant Flower, the Pakistan batting coach, said that he is happy with the improvement in the team’s batsmen, despite a 5-0 defeat against Australia ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Pakistan were completely outplayed by Aaron Finch and his team in the United Arab Emirates. However, Flower believes there are a lot of positives to be taken despite the outcome.
“It was always going to be difficult to beat Australia, given how many players we were resting, so in that sense the series result appears worse than it perhaps is,” he told ESPNCricinfo.
The Australia series marked only the second time since 2003 that Pakistan’s batsmen had scored five centuries in a series – two each by Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan, and one by Abid Ali.
Flower was generous in his praise for Sohail, who was Pakistan’s highest scorer in the series, and burst into the team after recovering from a recurrence of a career-threatening knee injury.
“Haris is a class player and he showed that. His knee’s getting stronger now, and he’s working a lot harder at his fitness,” Flower said. “He’ll be the first to admit he didn’t put in the hard yards quite as much earlier in his career, but he’s seeing the benefits of the work he’s putting in now.”
The batting coach was also impressed by the 26-year-old Rizwan, who returned to the ODI side after a gap of two years, as well as 31-year-old Ali, who registered the highest score by a Pakistan batsman on ODI debut.
“Rizwan’s been playing well, but he looked more in charge of his own mind this time,” he said. “Less frenetic and paced his innings better. He’s good enough to bat in the top four, but I also think he’s versatile enough to play lower down. He doesn’t have the power-hitting, but he can still find the boundaries and the odd six and do a job. His running between the wickets is among the best of our players.
“Abid’s century was, of course, brilliant to see. I wasn’t expecting it, since we hadn’t done much work with him before the series. I’d been told how good he was, but to see him timing the ball as beautifully as he did was very encouraging. Front foot, back foot, offside, legside, you name it. The Australians were very impressed by him.”
Interestingly, none of the centurions are regulars in Pakistan’s first-choice side, and with less than two months left for the World Cup, the batting unit’s bench strength bodes well for the team. Flower, who has been with the Pakistan side for five years, said he enjoyed working with this unit.
“I really enjoy the players. I think they enjoy working with me; they know I’m honest,” he said. “When I speak with them, I’m not going behind their backs, I tell them how it is. I see them improving, and you’ll see the averages bear that out. But the World Cup’s the priority for now. It’s a very open tournament, so we’ll see how that goes for now. I’ve been here five years and it’s been a good ride.”
Pakistan open their tournament on 31 May, against West Indies. Prior to the World Cup, they will tour England for a five-match ODI series and one-off T20I.