Pakistan captain says another 30-40 runs could have swung the match in his team's favour
The team batting second had won all three previous matches in the Super Eights of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 at the R Premadasa Stadium, and Pakistan had won two of its three previous games in the competition chasing rather than setting a target. Mohammad Hafeez’s decision to bat first in a crunch game, therefore, didn’t go down too well with a section of the media, but Pakistan’s captain said the reason for the eight-wicket loss to India on Sunday night was simply that it didn’t bat well enough.
“I don’t think batting first was a mistake,” said Hafeez. “As a team, we wanted to play positively and set a target. The pitch was breaking, it was there for all to see, and our attack is spin-based. We thought if we could score 160, it would be a defendable total. But unfortunately, we lost wickets at regular intervals and couldn’t have a meaningful partnership early on in the innings. As a result, we couldn’t set the total we wanted to.
“Our bowling is our strength, it has always been our strength, and of that there is no doubt. The ball was turning on this pitch, and not coming on to the bat. Had we got 150 to 160, it would have been a very competitive score but in the end, Virat Kohli’s innings was spectacular. He made it a totally one-sided match.”
Hafeez didn’t hold back in his praise of Kohli, the man of the match for his unbeaten 78 off 61 deliveries, with eight fours and two sixes. “I think he is in the best form of his life,” said Hafeez. “I haven’t seen anyone in the form that he is in at the moment. He is carrying on with his good form, it’s a great thing for him as a batsman.”
Pakistan also sent Shahid Afridi, who has been horribly out of form with the bat, up at No. 3 ahead of Nasir Jamshed, the regular one-drop. “We felt he could bat without any pressure and freely at No. 3,” Hafeez reasoned. “Had he played a good innings, it would have been good for the team. He has done brilliantly well for Pakistan as an all-rounder.
“There is a place for him in the combination of the team, he figures in the composition of the XI we have worked out for this tournament. He has always been a match-winner for Pakistan. He is not in form at the moment but I still believe his capacity as a batsman and bowler is undiminished; he has done well in the past and he will do well in the future too.”
Pakistan looked a little flat, and understandably so, during India’s chase, with three catches being put down and the ground fielding too very patchy. “Today, India played better cricket than Pakistan, there is no doubt,” Hafeez conceded. “Virat was excellent tonight, but I don’t think there was anything missing as far as our body language was concerned. We really wanted to win the game, but unfortunately we kept losing wickets at regular intervals, so we couldn’t come back after the first ten overs. We were looking for a few early strikes when India batted, but once we couldn’t get those wickets early on, India got on top of us.”