File photo: Pakistan coach Waqar Younis expects Shahid Afridi and the team to turn their woeful form around © AFP
Having been received warmly in Kolkata by security personnel and queues of escort vehicles, Pakistan had quickly strode to a warm-up win against Sri Lanka. In that match, the top order made good contributions, and the bowling was both miserly and menacing.
Before they landed in India, though, Pakistan had had to fight some fires. There was the standard political wrangling that accompanies Pakistan’s matches in and against India. There was also a late change to the squad, as well as faint rumours that team management were dissatisfied with Shahid Afridi’s particular brand of leadership.
As coach Waqar Younis reminded his charges, though, all this is in the past. When has Pakistan ever been trouble free? And when has trouble ever stopped them?
“I hope the controversy won’t affect the players,” Waqar said. “We had a bit of drama before coming here. We had a bit of controversy yesterday also. My message to the boys is to leave everything behind, because this is about playing for the nation. This is about playing some quality cricket, which we are all capable of. We are a kind of a team that wins once we click – once we get the momentum – we can surprise people.”
The man who may have to lead the clicking and momentum-making is Afridi, who did not have a good first outing in India. He bagged a golden duck in the practice game, and then delivered four overs for 40 runs. He also missed training with a fever on Tuesday, but Waqar backed the Pakistan T20 captain to get better on all counts.
“Twenty20 is such a format that you can be just one good innings away from good form,” Waqar said. “We are hoping this is the story in Shahid’s scenario too. Today it’s better for him to take rest as it’s warm out there, so we’ve left him in the hotel room.”
Pakistan had won each of the first seven T20s they had played against Bangladesh, before 2014. Recently though, tables have begun to turn. Bangladesh have won both encounters in the past year, though they played those games in home conditions.
“Every team has the right to improve, and it is good for world cricket and for Bangladesh,” Waqar said. “For the last 18 to 24 months, they have been playing really good cricket. We saw it at the World Cup and against us as well – against the South Africans and the Indians also. They are becoming a good side and we have got plenty of respect for them. But this is a big stage.
“It’s definitely different conditions to Bangladesh. But when you play good cricket, as they are, conditions don’t really matter that much. We have to be really watchful, and we have to come out really strong to beat them tomorrow.”
Pakistan are historically among the most successful World T20 teams, but the favourites tag has avoided them this time. Waqar said form within the tournament was much more important than good results in the approach to it.
“You can’t call anything impossible because all the teams have come here to win,” he said. “If you look at all the World T20 events that have happened before, none of the teams that won were thought of as the favourites when the event began. India or Pakistan when they won last time, Sri Lanka, West Indies – none of them were big guns of that event. This T20 version is such that if you play well in those three weeks, you can win the cup. I would not say anyone is a favourite here.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo