Pakistan captain says six-day break allowed team to iron out chinks and Umar Akmal, star in win over Australia, to recover
The calculators can go out the window, the working out of permutations and combinations can be given the go-by. Pakistan knows that its fate so far as the ICC World Twenty20 2014 is concerned is in its own hands and it don’t have to look for favours from elsewhere, a scenario Mohammad Hafeez and his boys are perfectly comfortable with.
India has already nailed down one semifinal berth from Group 2 of the Super 10s. Pakistan, which has one win and a loss from two games, can clinch the other slot if it wins its two remaining matches at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, on Sunday(March 30) against winless Bangladesh and on Tuesday against West Indies, the defending champion who can ease into the semis if it gets the better of Pakistan.
“The picture is very much clear,” Hafeez said on Saturday (March 29) as his team rounded off preparations for the Bangladesh game. “As a team, we've to win every game (from here) to be through to the semifinal. We know there is no chance of making any mistakes, and we are ready for it. India have played very good cricket so far in the tournament. It's good that they are through and the rest of the teams know what it will take to advance. In the last game (against Australia), great character was shown by everyone, and we hope to build on it.”
That last game, when Pakistan braved a brutal onslaught from Glenn Maxwell and went on to complete a hard earned 16-run victory, was six days ago, on March 23. “In the last six days, we have trained hard and worked out (our plans) very well,” Hafeez offered. “The team management has worked on our weaknesses. We've all given our 100% despite the rising heat. The build-up to the crucial stage of the tournament has gone off very well.”
The long break was particular beneficial for Umar Akmal, Hafeez revealed. Umar, the man of the match for his sparkling 94 against Australia, had batted on with a hamstring injury. Hafeez said the six-day gap had helped him recover considerably. “The break was a blessing in disguise because he got rest. The physios worked with him during that time, and he has been practising for two days now.”
Hafeez said while Pakistan’s first goal was to reach the last four, it wouldn’t be satisfied just to make it to the knockouts. “We always look to do well in tournaments, the expectations should remain high,” the skipper pointed out. “Our eventual target is not to reach the semifinal but to win the tournament. We have done well in difficult conditions, so we are destined to do well (here).”
Pakistan has been involved in one 7.30 pm (local time) start and one 3.30 pm start. Sunday’s game will also be a 3.30 pmstart, but Hafeez said natural light or artificial, the team must do well irrespective of the conditions. “Obviously, the conditions are slightly different between night and day games. But the team has to play well in any condition, they have to put up a good show. Day conditions give you more (opportunities to score) as a batting unit.”
Bangladesh is sitting on a depressing three-match losing streak and Pakistan must fancy its chances of a thumping victory, but Hafeez predictably chose to play it safe. “No team is easy because in T20 cricket. We have seen that all teams are capable of giving a tough time to each other. You have to get the basics right to win each and every game. We respect them and will do our level best to win the game.”
Wrist spinners have had a generally good time of it in this competition, with Amit Mishra among the leading wicket-takers alongside Samuel Badree, and James Muirhead, the young Aussie, impressing on his World T20 debut against West Indieson Friday. “There's place for leg-spin in this format, that's what they've shown in this tournament especially,” Hafeez agreed. “They have not been afraid to toss the ball up in these conditions. It's good that spinners are getting more success in the T20 format. We have had (Shahid) Afridi with us for many years. He is doing the job for us. (Saeed) Ajmal (the offspinner) is also doing the job for us.”