This was his best innings, says Pakistan hero Imran Nazir, because, as he said with a laugh, he used his brains
If you thought Pakistan was rattled by Bangladesh’s imposing 175, and was considering playing it safe by looking to make the 140 it needed to secure qualification for the Super Eights, think again. Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s captain, made it clear that his team were going for the win right through the game.
“We were very positive as far as this game is concerned," said Hafeez. "We knew that we would chase whatever target we faced. Bangladesh played well, they put us under pressure today. Our bowlers couldn’t bowl well. They were a little bit short.
"After that, we came out with a positive attitude. Imran was exceptional tonight. He is at his best in T20. It’s great to see as a captain. In the dugout, we didn’t discuss anything about 140. We just went out to win the game.”
Hafeez also suggested the pitch had a lot do with his bowlers conceding 175, and then backed them to come good. “I can’t say that I’m not happy with the effort of the bowlers, but yes there is a bit of concern as a captain," he said. "Our fast bowlers are not producing in the manner that they can. Yasir Arafat bowled well, Afridi was excellent again. We expect Colombo to turn a bit more, these pitches are slightly different."
The fast bowling is a bit of a concern, but I know that this pitch was really a belter. They tried their hearts out but could not get it right. We knew that if our bowlers could not stop Bangladesh, then we could get to the target playing our normal cricket."
While Saeed Ajmal bowled well, he could not escape punishment, and Hafeez conceded that Saqlain Mushtaq’s role as bowling coach of the Bangladesh team may have helped them in this regard. “Saeed has been one of our premier bowlers and he has done well for us in tough times," he said. "The times he has singlehandedly won games for us in crunch situations are many. If Bangladesh played him well today, that’s a good thing. If Saqlain has given them some tips that worked, that’s also good, he’s their bowling coach.”
Hafeez also said that his squad had enough depth in it to adapt to the different challenges that would confront them in the Super Eights. “The best thing is that whatever role we assign to players, they’re putting in maximum effort to do the job," he said. "All 15 in our squad are matchwinners, and this team is united in trying to do the best for Pakistan.
"We have to look at every opponent, the conditions at the time and then pick our combination based on that. In these events, you play a new team each game, so you have to change your strategy each game.”
Hafeez, who batted with Nazir for the best part of his blistering 72, was all praise for the manner in which he approached the innings. “He is a very talented player, there’s no doubt about that," he said. "But sometimes he has a rush of blood. What I normally do is give him my thoughts, but I don’t stop him from doing what he wants. Sometimes, I tell him, we’ve got two boundaries in an over already, so there’s no need to try for a third one.”
Did Nazir listen to his captain at these times? “I think he listens to me," said Hafeez. "It’s great to see him respond like I want. He’s an exciting talent in this Pakistan team. I wish him the very best and if he can continue playing like this it would be great for the team.”
Nazir, for his part, said that the innings was one of his best, given how he batted deep into the chase. “In one way this is my best innings, because I used my brains,” he said with a chuckle. “I took the ones and twos instead of trying to hit from the word go. In 20 overs, you can’t hit each and every ball for four or six. All my well-wishers tell me that if I stay at the crease for 15 overs, the runs will automatically come. I’m just trying to do that.”
Nazir, who came into the ICC World Twenty20 2012 on the back of a run of indifferent scores, said he did not think about whether this was his last chance. “Some people may have thought this was my last chance but I didn’t look at it that way. I know the ability I have and the hard work I put in. I love the sport of cricket and playing it. I don’t think about whether I’ll get a chance tomorrow or not.
“I just concentrate on playing the game. I just play, whether I perform well or not is up to God. I just want to play as much as I can for my country and win matches.”