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Mushtaq says Pakistan wary of fearless Afghanistan

Saqlain Mushtaq the Head Coach of Pakistan addresses his team ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Dubai International Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq believes Afghanistan’s ability to play fearless cricket makes them a dangerous proposition as the sides prepare to meet at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq believes Afghanistan’s ability to play fearless cricket makes them a dangerous proposition as the sides prepare to meet at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021.

Both sides have a 100 percent record in the Super 12s so far, with Pakistan recording impressive victories over rivals India and New Zealand, while Afghanistan beat Scotland by a massive 130 runs.

Pakistan also sit third in the ICC MRF Tyres Men’s T20I Team Rankings ­– four places above their opponents ­– but Saqlain insists there won’t be any complacency when his team take to the pitch in Dubai on Friday.

“Afghanistan are a strong unit,” said Saqlain. “We can't really say that it's very easy and you will roll over them. It's not like that.

“They have a wonderful bowling attack, especially the spinners. And when they go for batting, they just play the way they feel it, what's in their heart, what they think.

“They just go and execute the plan. They just play sort of a fearless cricket and I think that kind of team can be dangerous.

“But as I said before in my answers, you play for your pride. You don't think, well, this is a small team and this is a big team. No, not like that. Otherwise your mind will train or start thinking in that way.

“So, in the World Cup, it's a mega win. You play all the teams with the same intensity, with the same attitude, with the same sort of mindset and you execute your plan the way you execute the plan against the bigger name teams. So, Afghanistan are a good team.”

Afghanistan’s spinners played brilliantly against Scotland as Mujeeb Ur Rahman took five for 20 and Rashid Khan ended with four for nine.

Saqlain knows plenty about spin bowling, having taken 496 wickets for Pakistan during his career as an off-break bowler, and is wary of the threat posed by Afghanistan’s turners.

“They've been doing really well in different leagues,” he said. “And they are quite confident of doing their business on the day.

“They are very good but obviously we should play our game and we should execute our plan with clarity of the mind. But they are very good bowlers.”

When the sides met at the 50-over ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup in 2019, Pakistan edged to victory by three wickets and with just two balls to spare in a thrilling game.

Afghanistan are competing in this tournament with the backdrop of a complicated political situation back home but Rashid says the team are focused purely on the cricket and relishing the challenge of facing their rivals.

“It's always a good game against Pakistan,” explained the spinner. “Even when we played in 2018 in Asia and also in terms of 2019 World Cup –­ they were good games.

“To be honest, at the moment, the only thing we have in the mind that we're here for the World Cup and we're playing five games and we need to win three games.

“That is the theme we have in the mind as a whole team and we have the quality and the skills in the team that we can qualify for the semi-finals.

“That's the only thing in the mind of each and every player. We don't think about what's happening in the future. We don't think about what happened in the past.

“That’s something which is not in our hands, it is not in our control, and we shouldn't think about it – we don’t want to put any extra pressure on us.

“If we have so many things in the mind that might affect our performance, that might affect the team performance. And even the fans will be upset with that when you don't perform well.

“As a team, we're just focusing on this World Cup to get better and better and qualify to the next round.”

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