We noticed a couple of Pakistani fans in the resort where we were staying in Mt. Lavinia. They`d just checked in the previous day, and we sensed an opportunity to pick their brains on suggestions that Pakistanis is among the favourites to lift the trophy this year.
Arshad and Zoheb live in Birmingham, UK and are here in Sri Lanka until the finals. They`re very confident that their team will repeat the feat they`d witnessed in England back in 2009 – when Pakistan, under Younis Khan`s captaincy, were crowned World T20 champions.
Arshad feels that their strength lies with the top order batting – a solid start, he feels, could be the difference between a par score and a mammoth total. Zoheb, on the other hand, backs the bowlers to even defend a miserly score, if such a situation arises. Understandably, he picks Saeed Ajmal as the bowler who could hold the trump card to take Pakistan all the way.
Zoheb would have had concerns in the manner in which the Bangladeshis piled up a challenging score of 179 yesterday. That skipper Hafeez backed his own abilities at the start of the innings seemed bemusing – given his lack of effectiveness. He might have done well to take himself off the attack earlier.
This paved the way for Shakib – arguably one of the better Asian all rounders today – to craft an outstanding innings that took Bangladesh to the total they eventually gathered. The only glitch was a series of amusing misunderstandings with skipper Mushfiqur Rahim when calling for runs – a string of errors that couldn`t stop keeper Akmal and Afridi from sharing a laugh.
Although I would imagine they wouldn`t have had half a heart to smile when Sohail Tanvir dropped a dolly offered to him by Rahim at mid-wicket. I must have looked at the replays half a dozen times and the comicality of the drop never fails to make me laugh. That he pointed to the lights and pulled down his shades afterwards marked out what is idiosyncratic of fielders who drop catches – what brings one laughter can leave another bewildered. I have a strong belief that this video will have a healthy shelf life on YouTube.
Arshad, on the other hand, would`ve taken heart out of the Pakistani`s batting performance. He`d pointed out a healthy start as a key factor in either posing large totals, or chasing larger ones. Imran Nazir`s batting style makes it easy for the audience (and predictably, his team mates) to accept that his audacious strokes are what lay the foundation in the top order – given the snail`s pace (in the context of T20) at which Hafeez historically paces his innings. I guess they understand each other`s game, and this seems a method that the Pakistanis are certain of in working to their favour.
As they progress to the Super 8, tougher tasks lay ahead. To have India, Australia and South Africa in the same group is enough to ingrain fears of an early slip, but unpredictability is what drives T20 cricket forward today. And it will continue to.