Mirpur, Bangladesh: Pakistan’s T20 captain Mohammed Hafeez is not bothered about the fact that they have never beaten India in World Twenty20 but he has a lot of expectations from Shahid Afridi as he wants the dashing all-rounder to yet again put up a match-winning performance against their arch-rivals on Friday. (Pakistan players upbeat ahead of tournament opener against India)
It was on the back of Afridi’s whirwind knock that Pakistan had beaten India in the Asia Cup.
“We would always want Afridi to come lower down the order and finish the game for us. It’s important that he (Afridi) is in good form and frame of mind. We want him to repeat the performance of the Asia Cup match against India,” skipper Hafeez said at the pre-match media conference in Mirpur on Thursday.
While Ravichandran Ashwin is slowly regaining some form and will be itching for revenge, Hafeez is confident that the eldest statesman of his side is well prepared to face him. (Read: India vs Pakistan clash to set ball rolling as Super 10 beckons)
“Each and every individual does his homework,” was his reply.
Pakistan have never won against India in three ICC World T20 encounters but Hafeez is hardly bothered about “history”. (Pakistan must play fearless cricket against India, say ex-captains)
“History does not really bother us. Irrespective of whether it is good or bad, it is history. All days are not great days. You should be ready for the next day,” Pakistan captain brushed aside the statistical factor. (Read: Inzamam fears warm-up loss to South Africa could rattle Pakistan)
The skipper also begged to differ from the team’s batting consultant Zaheer Abbas’ logic that Dhoni’s absence was a big factor during Asia Cup and his presence will make a difference.
“I respect Zaheer bhai’s statement and he has his own logic. Dhoni has been a great captain and has led the team well in the last five or six years. But if you are prepared well then you can overcome any challenge.”
Hafeez is also of the opinion that having all-rounders like Afridi and veteran Shoaib Malik will help them a lot.
“We do believe that having all-rounders helps. We have all-rounders like Shoaib Malik, Afridi and Kamran Akmal, who is a wicketkeeper-batsman.”
India haven’t exactly done well in the powerplay overs but the Pakistan captain refused to read into it.
“Statistics like these can help but on the day, you need to execute your plans. It also helps that we have played a lot of matches in Bangladesh. We have won the Asia Cup over here and are aware about the conditions. But similarly, the Indian team also has a lot of experience in these conditions,” he explained.
While there were reports of a rift between Hafeez and some other members of the team management, the skipper rubbished the rumours. “Any decision that we take is a team decision. We have one aim and that is to win.”
The skipper was ecstatic about how senior speedster Umar Gul has worked on his fitness and is looking sharp as ever.
“It has been an outstanding comeback by Umar Gul. He has done a lot of hardwork to get his rhythm back. He is our No 1 pacer.”
Hafeez is confident that youngsters such as Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal will play for Pakistan for a long time as they have the talent to be consistently successful.
“Umar and Shehzad have played a lot of cricket together from the U-19 days. There are four five boys who are really talented. There’s Umar Amin, Sohaib Maqsood who are also very talented and will only get better day by day.”
Pakistan were bundled out for 71 in their final warm-up game against South Africa in Fatullah on Wednesday but Hafeez is not really worried about the performance.
“Some players needed to be given a chance,” was his answer. The skipper is also of the opinion that best XI players should play and that’s the reason he is ready to do away with Sharjeel Khan-Ahmed Shehzad opening combination after Kamran Akmal scored 52 runs in the first warm-up game against New Zealand.
“I have always believed that the form players should play.”