LAHORE – Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed is wary of Sri Lanka’s inexperienced Twenty20 side when the two countries meet in the three-match series, which starts Saturday.
Pakistan clinched the ODI series 2-0 at Karachi on Wednesday after the first match was washed out. But Sri Lanka fought well and scored 297 runs in the third and final ODI with opening batsman Danushka Gunathilaka recording a career-best 133.
"T20 is such a format that you can’t take any team lightly," Sarfaraz told reporters on Friday.
"The way Sri Lanka came back in the last ODI and gave us a strong fight we are not going to take them lightly."
Several top Sri Lanka players opted out of the limited-overs series in Pakistan due to security concerns despite Pakistan’s government giving the visiting team high-level security normally reserved for heads of state.
Pakistan is ranked world No.1 in Twenty20 rankings while Sri Lanka is in the bottom half, placed at No. 8.
But Sarfaraz believes rankings do not matter in the shortest format of the game.
"You can’t take any team lightly in T20 whether it is No. 1 or No. 8," Sarfaraz said. "They scored over 230 runs in both the ODIs and I think we are going to see some good cricket in T20 series."
Sarfaraz welcomed the return of batsmen Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal in the T20 squad, along with all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.
"They had performed well in the past and as a team management it’s our aim to give them full chance," Sarfaraz said.
For opening batsman Shehzad, it’s not easy to make a comeback to the national team, but to get a chance yet again is itself a positive sign.
"Getting dropped again and again doesn’t reflect well," he said. "But, where this is a negative, to keep coming back in the side is a positive. It demands ticking a lot of boxes and for that a lot of improvement has to be made."
Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 captain Dasun Shanaka was confident that his young team has the ability to compete against a big side.
"We all know that Pakistan is No. 1 and they are playing different brand of cricket at the moment, there’s a big gap between the two countries," said Shanaka, who scored a half century and 43 in the two ODIs at Karachi.
"People thought Pakistan will beat us easily in the last two ODIs but everyone has seen what our standard is. We are a good young T20 side in the making and I’m pretty sure they will give a good fight to Pakistan team and bounce back in the rankings."
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Babar Azam, Ahmed Shehzad, Asif Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara.