World T20: Another top four finish awaits Pakistan
With just a few more days to go to the ICC World Twenty20, I can feel the excitement building — it’s not just the kids but the adult ‘kids’ too, as cricket's version of the circus will be in town very, very soon.
The preparations have been given a trial run with the Sri Lankan Premier League and everyone is wiping off the dust on their coloured kits and getting them ready for when the music starts. I have been putting the Afghanistan T20 squad through their paces, hoping that the team, while not being a hot favourite, is physically prepared and gives opponents a run for their money.
But when it comes to the shortest format, there are few teams that have the ability to rock like my Pakistan boys. When you look at the squad and the history, there’s nothing more exciting when it all comes together for them. With the right mix of youth and experience, I see no reason why Pakistan should not be in the top four come the end of the tournament.
There’s hardly a player who can change a game more quickly than Shahid Afridi. When the ball is coming out of his hand as he wants it to, he single-handedly lifts the whole team. I can never forget that catch against New Zealand at The Oval as Pakistan rode towards the 2009 World Twenty20 title. If he gets the loop he wants, and can manage two good innings with the bat, it will go a long way in putting Pakistan into over drive.
The next event to watch will be the Akmal brothers as they blast away with their bats. Kami can be brutal against the opening bowlers – just ask the Australians as they felt the brunt in the 2010 World Twenty20 semi-final as the Akmal brothers helped Pakistan reach a formidable total.
Having watched a few SLPL games, I surely hope they can carry on the form into the mega event. Add to this mix Shoaib Malik's sense of what is required and his running between the wickets, there should be enough runs for the bowlers to defend each time.
Then it’s a matter of the captain using the bowlers appropriately, effectively and at the right time. Lead by Gully, the yorker specialist, and Sohail Tanvir, the team has a fantastic partnership of swing and speed and with the humidity, the ball will swing under lights. The professor, such a studier of the game and a perfectionist, will want these two to set the innings up for the spinners – himself, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Malik – to strangle the opposition and increase the pressure.
When preparing physically for this shortened and more frenetic form of the game, the primary focus is on speed — being able to cut off that extra run, to dive and jump back on your feet, to chase down the ball and cut it off or to chase an aerial shot to make it into a catch. Repeat sprint efforts is what the fitness trainer will concentrate on during the training sessions. Performing fast repetitions in the gym helps build up power and therefore improve speed.
And then, when the circus animals, sideshows and rides are about to pack up and the circus itself is about to come to an end, let's hope that our Pakistan boys will once again be involved in the finale (and just maybe my Afghan boys, too).
Read more by David here.
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