Arch-rivals focusing on respective strengths

Published: February 27, 2016
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Afridi’s heroics against India in the last Asia Cup saw them defeat their neighbours in a nail-biter of a match but Sharma believes the past will have no relevance in the outcome of this match. PHOTO: AFP

Afridi’s heroics against India in the last Asia Cup saw them defeat their neighbours in a nail-biter of a match but Sharma believes the past will have no relevance in the outcome of this match. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan T20I skipper Shahid Afridi and coach Waqar Younis have both said they will be hoping their pace attack can deliver the win as the Men in Green begin their Asia Cup campaign against arch-rivals India on Saturday in Dhaka.

The pacers have found some assistance in the opening few matches of the 2016 Asia Cup, especially with the new ball, and Waqar believes the early movement on offer will work to their advantage. “Our bowling attack is potent and has the ability to face India’s batting,” said the 44-year-old head coach.

His words were echoed by Afridi, who believes his army of fast-bowlers has the ability to trouble India’s batsmen. “Fast-bowlers are the main form of attack in these conditions,” he said. “We have got four pacers and they are all wicket-taking bowlers.”

The veteran all-rounder feels Pakistan need to target wickets during the Powerplay. “Our pacers need to take wickets in the opening six overs.”

The 35-year-old also hinted that left-arm spinner Muhammad Nawaz, who impressed during the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) while playing for Quetta Gladiators, may be in line for a debut. “[In the spin department] Nawaz has performed really well in domestic cricket as well as in the PSL,” added Afridi. “All three fast bowlers — [Muhammad] Amir, Wahab [Riaz] or [Muhammad] Irfan — are also in good shape.”

Matches between Pakistan and India are all the more riveting due to the nature of the teams, with Pakistan relying on their superior pace battery while India have always had the better batsmen, and Afridi knows that may be the case again on Saturday. “It has always been the case,” he said, but added that he feels Pakistan’s batsmen can match India’s. “They will try to score heavily but we also have good batsmen.”

Afridi had recently hinted that he may backtrack on his decision to retire after the World T20 in India but refused to comment on the issue. “The Asia Cup and World T20 are more important than my retirement,” he said.  “I am just focusing on that for the moment.”

Not focusing on Amir alone: Rohit Sharma

India opener Rohit Sharma, who scored a match-winning 83 against hosts Bangladesh in the tournament opener said his side are not focusing on Amir alone. “We are preparing for every individual rather than for just one,” he said. “We have to be well prepared and are up for the challenge.”

Sharma also feels the contest will be decided by who comes out on top between the strengths of the two sides, but backed himself and his fellow batsmen to deliver the goods against a ‘formidable’ Pakistan attack. “They have a formidable bowling attack, but we want to concentrate on our strengths and prepare our plans accordingly,” said the 28-year-old. “Our strength is batting and we will have to focus on that.”

The right-hander added that his side cannot afford to take Pakistan lightly. “They have been playing a lot of T20 cricket of late,” he said. “There are challenges for a batsman on wickets such as Mirpur.” 

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th,  2016.

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