Good to be World Cup underdogs: Sarfraz Ahmed

Lahore: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said on Monday that being underdogs in next month’s World Cup eases the pressure on his young team, who leave for the tournament this week.

Pakistan will play three warm-up matches before taking on joint-hosts England in a five-match one-day series and a Twenty20.
The 1992 World Cup winners start their campaign against the West Indies in Nottingham on 31 May.

Sarfraz said he would prefer his side to go into the tournament under the radar. “Look, when we go as favourites, then it’s a problem, but if we go as underdogs then other teams feel the danger, so I think being underdogs is good for us and eases the pressure,” Sarfraz told a press conference in Lahore before they depart for England and Wales on Tuesday.

The high-voltage clash between arch-rivals Pakistan and India scheduled for Manchester on 16 June promises to be one of the most tense of the tournament. Pakistan and India, who both possess nuclear weapons, came to the brink of all-out war recently after fresh sparring over the disputed region of Kashmir, adding to the intensity of the match. But Sarfraz played down the hype, saying all games are important.

“For us all nine matches are important so we will take every match as a match against India,” he said of Pakistan’s bitter rivals — who have won all six of their previous World Cup clashes. But Pakistan took the Champions Trophy against India in 2017 with a stunning 180-run victory in the final. “We have beaten India in a bigger event recently so we will have that advantage,” said Sarfraz.