By Wisden India staff in Mirpur
Pakistan captain says his side and West Indies both have quality tweakers and how they are handled will determine who wins knockout match
The winner of this game will go through to the semi-final, a stage Pakistan has reached in all four previous attempts. “West Indies rely a lot on their spinners. At the same time, Pakistan has also got some of the best spinners in the world,” said Hafeez. “These are the two sides for whom the spinners have to play a very, very handy role. The team which plays the spinners well will have the advantage in this game.”
Hafeez refuted suggestions that there was an overemphasis on spin all round, saying the conditions demanded that spin be used as the primary attacking bowling option. “As a team, you always think what the conditions are and you back yourselves. As I mentioned earlier, spinners are doing great in these conditions, so why not go with them? We still got one of the best pacers in Umar Gul. He has been exceptional in T20 cricket. And (Sohail) Tanvir has always performed well in this format. The only thing is we always watch conditions and go with that.”
The West Indies has the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 Twenty20 International spinners in Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree respectively, and the side has been bolstered further by the presence as a spin-bowling coach of Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistani offspinner who will now be plotting the downfall of the country of his birth. “There is no doubt that he was a great spinner of his era and enjoyed great success,” acknowledged Hafeez. “The thing is there is no such medicine that you can give so that a player will start doing well. It requires a lot of skill. In their side, there are good spinners whom we rate highly. Sunil Narine is counted among one of the best spinners in the world. We also have some of the best spinners in the world -- Saeed Ajmal, (Shahid) Afridi, (Zulfiqar) Babar... So we are blessed with some quality players in that department.”
Pakistan’s plans for the West Indies would depend a great deal on the conditions, Hafeez observed. “We were very sure about this game (against Bangladesh) after watching the pitch provided by the curator. We knew this is a slow pitch where we have to put up a good score. We were clear with our plans and so were the batsmen. We had given them instructions to just go and enjoy the format. Ahmed Shehzad (the centurion) was exceptional and the rest of the boys were rotating the strike so that he would not feel the pressure.
“Regarding West Indies, they are also playing very good cricket. We are looking forward to that game, we know that it’s a big game. We can’t make any mistakes. So we have to give our best display in that game.”
Apart from Shehzad and Umar Akmal, who made 94 against Australia, no other Pakistan top-order batsman has shown any worthwhile form, but Hafeez said that wasn’t quite a major area of concern. “What is more important is your confidence level as a team. When you are playing in the nets, as a batsman you have to see how well you are playing,” said Hafeez. “The entire batting unit is in excellent touch. Confidence is important. There was a lot of talk going around about Shehzad’s form. But we backed him, he is one of the best and when he performs, he will make it a one-sided affair. We have to treat other players also in the same way and we are giving them confidence. I have gone through this and I know, a player needs some backing after one or two failures. If you have potential, you can emerge as a match-winner at any stage.”