After a miserable and controversy induced World Cup, two-time Asia Cup champions Pakistan will look to make things right in Bangladesh. Under Waqar Younis’ stewardship, the 2012 champions will also seek to finally end their embarrassing streak of having never beaten India in ICC World Cups and they will get a bite at that cherry in less than a month’s time.
First Pakistan face India in Dhaka on February 27 and then in the ICC World T20 in Dharamsala on March 19.
In the previous two editions – both played in Bangladesh – Pakistan won the first (in 2012) after beating the hosts in a thrilling finale but lost the 2014 edition to Sri Lanka.
Contrary to many of their squads in the past, the current lot is a young one with much to prove. Although amongst their ranks are also experienced members in captain Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Hafeez.
Coming into the tournament, Pakistan will not have the luxury of confidence on their side having lost to New Zealand, England and Bangladesh but picking up wins over Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. However, they would be boosted with the match practice gained during the on-going Pakistan Super League (PSL), which allowed many members in the squad to get some playing time under their belt.
Pakistan cannot boast of a well-balanced side that India can but the element of surprise could be Afridi-led side’s biggest advantage at the biennial tournament which would be played in a T20 format for the very first time.
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Focus on youth
In a surprise move, selectors didn’t make space for experienced Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Gul while being liberal with giving exposure to the youth in the large-scale tournaments.
Uncapped left arm pacer Rumman Raees and rookie all-rounder Muhammad Nawaz have made the 15-man squad alongside Test opener Khurrum Manzoor who hasn’t played a T20I for Pakistan.
For T20 tournaments where explosive nature is the prime requirement and not a level head on one’s shoulder, the presence of youth could eventually work out in Pakistan’s favour.
However, one thing that would still be required to succeed would be to stay fit and to stay consistent, as the Asia Cup is only a prelude to the big one in World T20.
Pakistan’s fixtures at Asia Cup:
Vs India on 27 February
Vs UAE on 29 February
Vs Bangladesh on 2 March
Vs Sri Lanka on 4 March