Pakistan paceman-turned batting star talks about the match-winning partnership with Umar Akmal
Umar Gul turned out to be an unlikely batting hero for Pakistan, and then said it was important, especially in Twenty20 cricket, for cricketers to contribute in all three disciplines. Gul made his highest Twenty20 International score, 32 off just 17 deliveries, to resuscitate a floundering run chase and help Pakistan edge South Africa by two wickets at the ICC World Twenty20 2012.
“We were very confident, we knew we could do it with the team we had and the players we had,” said Gul, who joined Umar Akmal with Pakistan on 76 for 7, needing 134 for victory. “When I went in, we needed 40-odd runs in about four overs. I told Umar Akmal that he had the potential. I told him he was capable of scoring score 15-20 runs in one over. Just stay at the wicket and we can do it, is what I told him.”
Instead, it was Gul who played like a senior batsman, smashing sixes at will and leaving South Africa shell-shocked. “In T20 cricket, everybody should contribute for the team,” he said. “The good thing this is that from the last three to four games, in the warm-up games and then the World Cup games, everyone has been chipping in, from the top order to the middle order. That’s a very good thing for us. Today, Umar Akmal played extremely well. It is a good sign for our team.”
“You must help the team out in all three disciplines,” Gul added. “The way the coaches have been helping us out with their inputs during training, we owe it to them to come good. We bowlers have been batting first in the nets, so it’s important that we make it count.
“Shahid Aslam (the assistant coach) has worked a lot with us, giving us throw-downs and teaching us to play the bouncer and the short-of-length ball, as well as driving full balls. He has helped us a lot, credit to him.”
Gul bowled only two overs in South Africa’s innings, and wasn’t called on to bowl until the 18th over. “The captain (Mohammad Hafeez) didn’t tell me anything beforehand about plans but everyone is working for the team,” he said. “No one is playing for himself, everyone is playing as a team. The spinners were bowling well, so the captain stuck to them for long periods.
“I tell the captain that whenever you want me to bowl, I will bowl. No issues at all. As a professional, all these things must not affect you. At the end of the day, you must do what the team needs you to do.”
Next up for Pakistan, on Sunday night, is India. “The conditions here suit us and against India, we will try to play well,” said Gul. “Victory and defeat is not in our hands. We will try our 110 percent. No doubt India is a good batting unit, it is a good team. But if you see throughout the last World Cup, I bowled well. There is a lot of pressure against India because the expectations of the people of Pakistan are very high.
“There is pressure, they always want us to win, and I know for a fact that it is the same in India also. So there will be pressure on both teams. But I have never allowed pressure to affect my performance. India and Pakistan have played each other for a long time, so we know each other very well. We know each other’s weak and strong points.”