ISLAMABAD - Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said his players’ performance in the Asia Cup had raised his hopes for the team in the upcoming World Twenty20. Pakistan pulled off stunning run chases against India and Bangladesh, but lost the lopsided final to Sri Lanka. Misbah said the run-scoring by the likes of Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi on Bangladesh wickets indicated the team can perform well when that country hosts the World Twenty20 from March 16.
There’s a disappointment that we couldn’t win the final, but the morale of the team is very good,” Misbah said after arriving home from Bangladesh. We have a very good chance (in World Twenty20) ... especially the batsmen are in good form.” Pakistan is in a challenging group for the World Twenty20; facing India, Australia, defending champion West Indies and a qualifier.
Afridi hit successive sixes in last over for a one-wicket win against India and then his robust fifty off 18 balls earned Pakistan its biggest ever every chase of 327 against Bangladesh. Pakistan is one of the most successful teams in the shortest format of the game, having qualified for the inaugural World Twenty20 final in 2007 and then two years later won the event in England.
While 39-year-old Misbah continues to play in the domestic Twenty20, he quit T20 internationals in 2012 and was replaced by Mohammad Hafeez as the captain. Soon after the loss to Sri Lanka on Saturday, former Pakistan cricketers — Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Yousuf and Sikander Bakht — called for change in captaincy for country’s one-day team too.
“We need aggressive captain in one-day internationals and for that we should once again make Afridi as captain,” Yousuf and Bakht said. However, Akhtar’s choice was Saeed Ajmal, who took 11 wickets and was the joint leading wicket-taker in the Asia Cup with Sri Lanka’s pace ace Lasith Malinga. Pakistan sorely missed 7-foot-1 injured fast bowler M Irfan, given that fit-again pace bowler Umar Gul struggled on the slow wickets of Bangladesh, taking just five wickets in five matches with an expensive economy rate of 6.23.
“It wasn’t an easy tour, especially for fast bowlers,” Misbah said. “You know in Asia conditions are conducive for spin bowlers and it doesn’t help fast bowlers.” Poor fielding also hurt Pakistan in the final with Akmal, Sharjeel Khan and Hafeez dropping catches. “It doesn’t mean that coaches aren’t working or the boys are not doing hard work in the field,” Misbah said. “We try our best but unfortunately in important matches we missed a few chances.”