Azhar Ali, the Pakistan skipper, has revealed vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed could miss the entirety of the One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia after the wicketkeeper rushed home to be with his unwell mother.
Amid a disappointing Test series whitewash, Sarfraz’s cavalier batting was a rare bright spot for Pakistan but his participation in the ODI series is in jeopardy after he returned home to be at the side of his mother, who is in intensive care in hospital.
It is another blow for Pakistan’s chances of upsetting Australia after towering paceman Mohammad Irfan left the team following the death of his mother. Sarfraz’s absence means Mohammad Rizwan will take the gloves for the opening match on Friday (January 13) at the Gabba.
Azhar admitted the loss of his deputy was a setback for Pakistan, who are attempting to end a disappointing tour on a good note. “We’ll definitely miss him tomorrow. Hopefully, he can re-join the team but, as for right now, he’s not here,” Azhar told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday (January 12).
The visitors have made numerous changes to the Test team, highlighted by the inclusion of Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez. Azhar hoped the fresh faces could rejuvenate Pakistan’s despondent team and believed their 196-run victory over a Cricket Australia XI in Brisbane ahead of the ODI would provide a confident boost.
“I know it wasn’t a very competitive game, but I still believe the batsmen who scored runs will get a lot of confidence,” he said. “The bowlers had a good outing as well. There’s nothing like playing matches. It’s good to be out there, no matter what sort of team you play against.”
The series is of major importance for Pakistan, who are ranked No.8 in ODI cricket, and must remain in the top eight by September to be an automatic qualifier for the 2019 World Cup. “It’s not far from the cut-off time so we want to be on top of it,” Azhar said. “As a team, we improved in the last four or five games – our performances have been really good. We want to keep building on that.”