DHAKA - Misbah-ul-Haq has said that Pakistan's blend of experienced players and newcomers has had success and the team remains confident of successfully defending their Asia Cup title. Pakistan, who beat Bangladesh in the 2012 final, come to the tournament on the back of series wins over Sri Lanka and South Africa.
"The [Pakistan] team is in good shape," Misbah said. "Cricket is a confidence game and we have been playing well in the last three-four months. We have to do our basics right to have a good chance." Misbah and Mohammad Hafeez have led Pakistan with the bat in the last 12 months, scoring in excess of thousand runs, and Ahmed Shehzad has not been far behind. Misbah was also confident that the relatively inexperienced group that includes Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Talha, Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali will give the team balance.
"Ahmed Shehzad has been part of our team for quite a while, he has been doing well," Misbah said. "He has improved. Sharjeel Khan had an average series, but he gave glimpses of being a good player, he can time the ball well. We are looking forward to see him develop into a good player. [Sohaib] Maqsood played well in South Africa and against Sri Lanka. With experienced players, few youngsters like Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti, they are putting some good scores. I am happy that it is a good, balanced unit. Youngsters are always contributing with the senior players."
Misbah said the competition in the Asia Cup was going to be tough, as all the teams understood the conditions. He also said Afghanistan, the first-timers in the tournament, were not to be taken lightly. "All teams have ability to win against any side," he said. "It will be good competition. Last Asia Cup was witness of that. Bangladesh beat two big teams, they came close to us. You can expect any team can win against any team. Afghanistan are a new, exciting team. They can do anything on a given day. They are not experienced, but they give their 100%. They have players that can really challenge other teams."
With the 2015 World Cup less than a year away, this is Pakistan's opportunity to groom their team. "I think it is good for the team that there is a chance to improve as a group. Somewhere there is a knockout stage in these tournaments, so the competition level is there. You prepare yourself as a team so I think this is good preparation before the 2015 World Cup. These tournaments have their own importance."