Our target is to win all the matches: Azhar Ali
The qualification scenarios for the Champions Trophy are already out in place for Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies ahead of a busy schedule. And now, Pakistan begin their journey with a 3-match ODI series at home against Zimbabwe. It will be an emotional moment for the new ODI skipper Azhar Ali as he will be playing his first match for Pakistan at home, but he knows that the focus should ideally be on the bigger picture.
Pakistan need to win all three matches in this series after getting beaten convincingly by Bangladesh last month. The cut-off date for qualification is the 30th of September and the hosts are also playing Sri Lanka in a 5-match series before that.
"Our target is win all the matches of the series and it's the main target for us," Azhar said. "We will learn from our mistakes in the past and will try to take fresh start. We have another opportunity tomorrow to improve our game and build a combination, which transforms into a very good team.
"We will try to give consistent chances to the players but at the same time we have a priority to make sure we won't miss out form the Champions Trophy too and will also help our future plans. It's such an occasion as a team and for me that it's very important to win. You also know the scenario that we have to win every match and with every game points count, every game is important and we will enter with our minds set on victory."
"I think Zimbabwe, especially their batting, did very well in the T20s. Our team is also very good, it has a mix of experience and youth. It's a good combination and our side is definitely better than them on paper but we got to keep a check on their performance as well. They are very good batting side and played very well in both T20s.”
Azhar also spoke about the importance of having quality allrounders in the squad, something which the team lacked in Bangladesh according to him. "When we went to Bangladesh we had very few options of allrounders, but if you look at this side we have good allrounders making into the squad, which eventually will help us a lot. Every team plays with four bowlers plus two-three allrounders but we are lacking in this."
On the pressure associated with Captaincy
"Pressure is always there, but I try not to take extra pressure and enjoy the opportunity. It's a good opportunity for me and I will try to leave the pressure aside and focus on the performance of the team, the results will take care of themselves. Whenever you wear Pakistan colour every match is new for you and it's an opportunity for you, I will try my best to perform."
"It's very emotional for me, I've been playing for Pakistan for the last five years, but haven't played at home ground," he said when asked about him playing for the first time at home. "It's an exciting moment for me and also for some other players who have not played in Pakistan. I saw the match at the ground yesterday and felt the excitement. It's great that cricket has returned to Pakistan and the credit goes to PCB and also to Zimbabwe Cricket for making this happen."