Pakistan will play the Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh in Dhaka today, desperate to bounce back from the slump that witnessed the team losing both the One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 series to England.
Captain Misbahul Haq, who has a lot to prove after being labelled unfit to lead the team in the shorter formats, has vowed that Pakistan will bounce back in the Asia Cup.
However, Misbah was wary of the danger posed by the three Asian teams including hosts Bangladesh — the weakest among the four participants. “We don’t want to commit that mistake,” said Misbah. “Bangladesh is a difficult opposition at home, because they know the conditions very well.
“On their day they can upset you, so we will not take them lightly. We have to put in our hundred per cent and come out hard to win the game.”
While India have witnessed a wretched form – although showing a glimpse of their class in their last match against Sri Lanka in Hobart – that saw them get knocked out in the group stage of the recently-concluded Tri-Nation Series in Australia, Misbah said the world champions will draw from that experience. He added that Sri Lanka, the finalists of the event, will pose a serious challenge as well.
“I think the way they have played cricket in Australia, it will always be difficult.
“To compete with them we have to work very hard and have to improve our performance.” While Pakistan, who toured Bangladesh in December last year and whitewashed the hosts across the three formats, will have fond memories of their previous trip to the country, Misbah said the Asia Cup will be a different ball-game.
“Regardless of the situation that we have played here and have some advantage, it will hardly matter as Sri Lanka and India have played some tough cricket.
“A lot of teams get mentally strong after playing over there [Australia],” he said.
Misbah said they want to forget the poor showing in the ODI series against England and take inspiration from the good results.
“Every game and every series is a different ball game. You can’t just stick to the series that you have lost.
“If you look at the series before we won six in a row, I think this is part of the game. What we want to do is just forget the ODI series and just look forward.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have been pitted together nine times in the tournament, with the former winning all the encounters.
Bangladesh chief selector returns
Bangladesh’s chief national selector Akram Khan withdrew his resignation after assurances from prime minister Sheikh Hasina that there would be no interference in his work. Akram resigned earlier this week after Bangladesh Cricket Board President Mustafa Kamal omitted the chief selector’s nephew Tamim Iqbal from the Asia Cup squad. Iqbal was later recalled to the side after he passed a fitness test.
He came and faded away at the World Cup. But an impressive Bangladesh Premier League stint might just be the right experience for Shehzad ahead of the Asia Cup, which the opener can and should use to cement a spot at the top of the Pakistan batting line-up still looking for that perfect opener.
The Sri Lanka batsman displayed his class on the Australian pitches with centuries that reminded fans of the Dilshan that was prior to being captain. His ability to bat for longer periods and score big hundreds will be a threat on friendly Bangladesh pitches.
The explosive opener is crucial to Bangladesh’s progress in the tournament, which they are yet to win. After being axed from the squad, prompting the national chief selector to resign, the left-handed batsman was then recalled to boost the line-up. His prowess with the bat and the ability to destroy a bowling attack on his day is well-known.
Most eyes will be on Sachin Tendulkar who still looks for an elusive 100th international ton. But Kohli is the man who can change the fate of the game single-handedly. With the additional responsibility of vice-captaincy, Kohli is India’s big gun in the tournament.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.