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Azhar vows Pakistan will directly qualify for World Cup 2019

Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali

Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali has said that his side will be committed to qualifying directly for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 after putting a strong performance in the ICC Champions Trophy, which will be played in the summer next year.

“The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is a crucial event for us, where as a team our main goal will be to win as many matches as possible so that we can improve our team ranking and qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019,” he said in a statement after the ICC announced the Champions Trophy schedule on Wednesday.

The tournament schedule was announced at The Oval exactly a year before the first ball will be bowled in the tournament, in which a total of 15matches – including three knock-out games – will be played over two and a half weeks.

“A lot of ODI cricket is scheduled in the lead up to the ICC Champions Trophy, and it will be our best chance to learn, improve and win as many matches as possible so that we arrive in England and Wales next year fully prepared and ready for the challenge,” said the Pakistan captain.

Azhar said he was hoping that his team would work out its weaknesses in time to win the trophy.

“The ICC Champions Trophy is one trophy which is missing from our cabinet. It has earned the status as one of the most demanding, challenging and intense competitions. So, it will be nice if we can get our hands on this piece of silverware next year.”

Ali, who has already represented the Men in Green in 33 ODIs, where he averages over 41 with the bat, went on to further emphasise the importance of the preparation before the main event, where team Pakistan are placed in Group B alongside defending champions and arch-rivals India, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

“In the face of competition from some outstanding teams and players, it will not be easy,” he said. “But success at any global event comes only after persistent preparations and efforts, which have to be backed up by consistent performances.

“I am hoping that over the next 12 months, we will be able to build on our strengths and achieve our objectives,” he added.