Karachi: Pakistan is hoping to blood youngsters to boost its chances of regaining the ICC World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka next year.
Pakistan, who lost to India in the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 Championship in South Africa in 2007, went on to capture the crown in England two years later. But they failed to defend the title in the Caribbean last year, losing to Australia in the semi-finals from a seemingly winning position.
It may lag far behind teams like old rivals India, South Africa and Australia in Tests and One-day Internationals, but in Twenty20 cricket Pakistan has a better success ratio than any other side. They have in their ranks some of the most successful players in Twenty20 format. However, in recent times the team's performance in the version has dipped a bit.
The exit of Shahid Afridi might further dent Pakistan's title chances in Sri Lanka. Afridi, the former Pakistan captain, retired from international cricket after a bitter fallout with the country's cricket authorities earlier this summer.
But Pakistani cricket officials are upbeat about the country's Twenty20 future. They believe that by blooding youngsters in the team, Pakistan can boost their World Twenty20 title hopes.
"We are in the process of making our plans for next year's Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and are confident of preparing the team well," Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan team manager, was quoted as saying in The News Monday.
Intikhab's optimism springs from the fact that Pakistan have a number of talented youngsters, who are currently making their presence felt at the domestic circuit. Youngsters like Ramiz Raja Jr - an explosive top order batsman - showcased their talents at a Twenty20 tournament in Faisalabad last month.
"Twenty20 is mostly a young man's game," said Intikhab, a former Pakistan Test captain.
"You have to have young guys who can hit the ball out of the park. You need guys who can really fight even while defending small totals. You need guys who are exceptionally good fielders. I'm sure that Pakistan currently has plenty of such guys."
Intikhab has been keenly following the opening phase of a fast-track coaching project that concluded last week at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. It featured fast bowlers and batsmen. The second phase, dedicated to spinners and wicket-keepers, will begin at the NCA Monday.
"Several of the youngsters who featured in the first phase look seem to be really good," said Intikhab, who has also served as Pakistan's national coach. "We can even blood some of them in our national Twenty20 squad," he added.
The coaching project is taking place under the supervision of former Test cricketers, including chief selector Mohsin Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Ijaz Ahmed and Abdul Qadir. The programme is being run by Intikhab, who is also Pakistan Cricket Board's director of game development.