‘Pakistan players must raise their game’ – Arthur

250879.3Mickey Arthur has laid down the gauntlet to Pakistan’s one-day squad as they aim to haul themselves up the rankings to secure an automatic World Cup spot, and says that nobody is safe from the axe should performances not improve.

Pakistan were comfortably beaten in the opening ODI at the Ageas Bowl with England well ahead of the rate when rain brought an early conclusion. Arthur was particularly pointed when referencing some of the older members of the squad, notably Mohammad Hafeez, who was dropped during the Test series and pulled a Joe Root long hop to deep square in the first game, saying he had started scouring the domestic scene in Pakistan for alternatives.

“I said to the players this morning that nobody’s safe. And if you’re over 30 you’ve got to be coming to the table more often than not, otherwise it’s an opportunity to blood some younger players. I’m telling no secrets, nobody is 100% safe in the ODI side and the guys know that. Everybody knows they’re on notice.

“I’ve actually started, the other night, going through potential players in Pakistan who can fulfil roles we think we’re going to need to evolve. In the meantime, the 15 players we’ve got here, we’ve got to back, [and] give them the opportunity to stake their claim to be part of the Pakistan ODI squad going forward.

“We’re going to build a team we think can compete in a year or two’s time. The invitation is there to every player: step up or we’ll find somebody else who can step up, it’s as simple as that.”

However, while building a team for the future, there remains the small matter of trying to avoid the World Cup qualifying tournament. Only the top eight nations automatically go into the 2019 World Cup, with the cut-off being September 30, 2017.

“Of course it’s a concern, Pakistan cricket should never be down at No. 9 in the world,” Arthur said. “We need complete buy-in from the players, we have got to give them a lot of confidence and allow them to grow in the roles we’ve given them.”

Although this leg of the tour, which began with a thrashing of a struggling Ireland side in Dublin, is Arthur’s first time working with the one-day squad since he was appointed, he is already seeing the failings which have frequented the limited-overs team.

A lack of power-hitters means they struggle to post or chase 300-plus totals – they did not hit a six at the Ageas Bowl – while there is the challenge of balancing the side. Yasir Shah missed out in the opening game, something Arthur acknowledged would have to change, while he was also pondering whether better use could be made of the in-form Sarfraz Ahmed who compiled a lively 55 off 58 balls in Southampton.

“Everything I’ve heard was on view really,” he said. “We’ve had a real good chat about it and got some ideas about how we can put it right.

“I’ve said to the boys we’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. I want to see the guys go out and express themselves, play with a bit of freedom. Playing the way we played the other night, we’re behind the times.”

Mohammad Amir faced a fitness test on Friday after leaving the field in Southampton with a side problem. Arthur suggested it could have been cramp, but added Amir would have to bowl at full tilt in the nets to be available.

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