BRISBANE: Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali said on Thursday that the visitors need to perform in the upcoming five-match series against Australia keeping in mind the 2019 World Cup.

Azhar Ali aims to go into Australia series with World Cup in mind. PHOTO COURTESY: PCB
Azhar Ali aims to go into Australia series with World Cup in mind. PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

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Pakistan currently languish eighth in the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings with 89 points, just two points ahead of West Indies. The top eight ranked teams qualify automatically for the World Cup and the cut-off date for that is September this year. The remaining teams would have to play qualifying matches in 2018.

Speaking during a press conference at the Gabba, Azhar said that his side’s aim is to stay in the top eight prior to the cut-off date. “We’re not far from the cut-off date, so we want to stay in the top eight,” he said ahead of the series opener in Brisbane tomorrow.

“Obviously this is a big challenge and we all know that, but it’s an opportunity for us to express ourselves and a good result would be great for our ranking,” he added.

The ODI captain added that if they perform well against Australia then it would also give the tourists a boost in confidence. “When you play in Australia and you do well, it will be wonderful for the confidence of our team,” he said.

Pakistan were whitewashed by Australia 3-0 in the recently concluded Test series. However, Azhar said his side will be looking to begin the ODI series with a fresh outlook.

“Obviously we have to start fresh [after the Test series] and some fresh faces have come into the team,” he said.

“It’s been a long, long tour. We’ve played a lot of cricket since England so it’s always good to have fresh energy in the team and we’re looking forward to a fresh series.

“As a team we have improved and in our last four or five games, our performances have been really good. We want to keep building on that and improve our performances,” he added.

Azhar confirmed that his team will be without their vice-captain and wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for the opening game and possibly this month’s entire five-match series.

“We’ll definitely miss Sarfraz tomorrow. Hopefully, he can rejoin the team but, as for right now, he’s not here,” he said.

Sarfraz had returned to Pakistan to be with his mother, who is in intensive care in hospital.

Mohammad Rizwan will take the gloves for the first day-night match and could remain in the side if Sarfraz does not return to Australia.

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