ICC Champions Trophy 2017
The Kiwi hand behind the fearless Fakhar
Rookie Pakistan opener says former Black Caps skipper played a vital role in his Champions Trophy rise
Martin Smith in London
18 June 2017, 04:48 PM AEST
Brendon McCullum inspired England's one-day revolution and the man who helped derail the hosts' Champions Trophy campaign this week has also credited the former Kiwi skipper for the blistering start to his international career.
Rookie opener Fakhar Zaman has been a surprise force in Pakistan's resurgence following their crushing loss to India two weeks ago. The exciting left-hander has posted scores of 31, 50 and 57 to give much-needed impetus to a top order that is short of true attacking stars.
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The best of the opener's three ODI innings to date came against England in Cardiff on Wednesday when he hammered a run-a-ball half-century after the hosts had laboured on a difficult batting surface to earn Pakistan a re-match with India in Sunday's final at The Oval.
Fakhar says the confidence he gained from playing with McCullum at the Lahore Qalanders during the Pakistan Super League earlier this year has helped to hasten his progression through the ranks in the months since.
"The first time I met him, he saw me batting and he told me 'Fakhar, you'll play all our matches, but ensure you play this (style of) game everywhere," Fakhar told cricket.com.au of the former Black Caps captain, who is in the UK on commentary duty.
"I learnt a lot from him. And I saw him the other day after my debut and he's told me so many things that are working for me. So it's a great experience to have a captain like Brendon McCullum.
"All of the Qalanders really enjoyed playing with him."
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McCullum partnered Englishman Jason Roy at the top of the order for most of the PSL, with Fakhar following the duo at No.3. In a disappointing season that saw the Qalanders finish last in the standings, the performances of Fakhar - his team's highest run-scorer with 177 at a strike rate of 138 - was one of the few bright spots.
Pakistan is the only major cricketing nation to not have players involved in the Indian Premier League, which cricketers from other countries have often credited for helping their development.
But coach Mickey Arthur says the introduction of the PSL just two years ago is already being felt in the national team.
"(The PSL) has been a very, very successful competition," Arthur said on Sunday.
"(It) exposes more and more young players to pressure situations, and I think the more we can expose our guys to those situations, the better results we get out on the ground.
"I think we can see our style and method catching up with the rest of the world because we're being exposed to it now.
"In the PSL we're getting all our top players rubbing shoulders with some of the best players around the world, so that is rubbing off on our cricket now, which certainly there had been a void for a period of time."
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In addition to giving his side a blistering start in three consecutive innings, Fakhar's injection of flair has also been beneficial to his opening partner, Azhar Ali.
While Azhar's rock solid defence and cool temperament have produced strong results at Test level in recent years, his career strike rate in one-day international cricket of less than 75 underlines how he's often struggled to lift the tempo against the white ball.
But the former skipper and another teammate of Fakhar's at Lahore says the 27-year-old's willingness to attack has relieved the pressure on him and allowed him to flourish.
"He's definitely supported me and he gives me a lot of comfort because he takes the game on and he takes the run rate quite far ahead," Azhar, who has shared opening stands of 40, 74 and 118 with Fakhar in this tournament, told cricket.com.au.
"I can just play my game and set myself and take it from there.
"He's very confident and his temperament is very good. He likes to take the game on and that's what he did in the PSL too. He plays his natural game, he backs himself and he keeps things simple. As an opening partner, you always want that.
"He's a wonderful partner to have and hopefully we can have another great partnership in the final and give our team a very good start."
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, No Result
6 June – England beat New Zealand by 87 runs
11 June – India beat South Africa by eight wickets
12 June – Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by three wickets
18 June – Final: Pakistan v India, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)