Scotland not bogged down by defeats in T20 World Cup: Safyaan Sharif

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02 Nov 2021 | 01:32 PM
authorPramod Ananth

Scotland not bogged down by defeats in T20 World Cup: Safyaan Sharif

The Scotland fast bowler remains confident of knocking over a full-member nation in the remaining matches of the T20 World Cup

Safyaan Sharif has been one of the standout performers for Scotland, not just in this year's T20 World Cup. He finished as Scotland’s leading wicket-taker in the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier, where his side finished fifth. In this year's tournament, he has five wickets from four games so far as the Scots look to bounce back against New Zealand after taking a beating against Afghanistan and Namibia. 

Scotland won all their three games in the first round of the competition, which included an impressive victory over Bangladesh on the first day of the tournament. They went on to beat Oman and Papua New Guinea (PNG), but have struggled in the Super 12 stage.

Despite these losses, fast bowler Sharif says that the team remain in good spirits ahead of the game against New Zealand.

“Everyone’s in a good space right at the moment. Our main job was to get into the Super 12 and beat a few full-member nations. We do still have the opportunity. The guys are not bogged down. It's T20 cricket, these things happen to even the best. So, we’re going to take one game at a time,” Sharif said in a chat with Cricket.com.

However, Sharif admits that the Scotland batsmen need to up their powerplay game a bit. 

“Batting-wise, we need to ensure that we don’t lose wickets in clusters. That’s where we’re struggling at the moment. Hopefully, they do the job against New Zealand. I am confident that the guys will back their skills and enjoy it,” Sharif said.

Shane Burger took over the reins of the Scotland team at the start of 2019 and since then, he has not just taken Scotland to the T20 World Cup, but the team is also in a good position to qualify for the 50-over World Cup in India in 2023. 

In the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, Scotland remain second behind Oman in the points table. With top three getting a direct entry in the 2023 World Cup Qualifier, given Scotland’s experience, they would certainly back themselves to progress from there and take part in the 10-team event.

However, Sharif said that the backroom staff have been really supportive throughout the T20 World Cup so far and have not put any pressure on them.

“It’s been quite good. The staff members know that it’s been tough on players, being in a bubble. They are pretty relaxed with us, letting us do whatever we want to do on our days off. There’s not a lot of pressure from them. It’s good to have a lot of staff to support you mentally, making sure that you’re enjoying our time when we’re playing in high-pressure situation. So, it’s good of them to support us like that,” Sharif, who recently played his 50th T20I for Scotland said.

Sharif has been Scotland’s most successful bowler in T20I powerplays since 2019, having picked up 12 wicket at an economy rate of 6.3 and has struck once every 20.5 deliveries. In the T20 World Cup 2021, he has managed just three wickets so far, but has done so giving away just four runs an over.

Overall, Scotland have picked up 11 wickets in the first six overs at a strike-rate of 16.4, and are among the top five teams in the tournament on that front.

“Our primary aim is to take wickets and keep runs as low as possible. But that’s the toughest stage to bowl. The bowlers have been bowling extremely well in the powerplays and we are managing to pick up 2-3 wickets which is our task. Hopefully, we can keep continuing what we are doing and that comes down to just bowling to your strengths and bowling to your fields,” Sharif said when quizzed on the tactics in the phase.

Speaking of the wickets in the UAE, Sharif says that the wickets are a little tired as the Indian Premier League (IPL) was played on those surfaces not too long before the World Cup.

“The wickets do look a little tired than usual as the IPL was played there previously. So, we just try to mix up our variations and try to deceive the batsmen as much as we can and make sure we are a step ahead. The slower ball is working well and every team is using the slower ball well and picking up wickets with it,” Sharif, Scotland’s leading T20I wicket-taker, said.

Josh Davey was the leading wicket-taker in the group stages of the 2015 World Cup and since then, has gone to play the World T20 2016 and now is part of the 2021 edition too. His vast experience from playing at the County level and now for Scotland at the international level has certainly helped the side massively. With nine wickets to his name so far, he is also Scotland’s leading wicket-taker

Speaking of Davey, Sharif said, “Josh Davey is a key bowler. He has had a lot of success at the county level as well. For Scotland, he has been outstanding in the powerplay and also in the death. To have someone like him in the squad is good and we get to learn from him.”

Like Scotland, many associate nations did not get an opportunity to play many T20I games since the Qualifiers in 2019, ahead of the T20 World Cup. With the home series against Australia and New Zealand scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Scotland’s first match since the end of Qualifiers was when they played Zimbabwe at home in September 2021.

With nearly two years of no T20I cricket, Sharif said that they worked hard in training. 

"It was quite tough as we had a lot of games postponed. So we just had to find a way and back our skills at the training sessions whenever we had them. We got a series against Zimbabwe which was good prep for us. We just worked hard in training and making sure that our T20 skills are executed well," Sharif explained.

Scotland’s campaign at the T20 World Cup hangs in a balance and are now in need of winning all three remaining matches, if they are to qualify for the semi-finals. It will not be an easy task as they have to overcome New Zealand, India and Pakistan to make it through.

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