Before he landed in Dhaka for the World T20, Shahid Afridi was in the news for making a sexist comment on television. The father of four daughters had apparently advised the women in his country to stick to cooking instead of playing cricket. It wasn’t the first time Afridi was caught in a ‘foot in the mouth’ situation before a big event and Team Pakistan, on arrival in Bangladesh, were once again dealing with questions that were not really cricket-related.
The Afridi controversy soon died down and since then, the Pakistan camp has been surprisingly silent. Dressing room spats, if any, have remained in the dressing room. The players have been guarded at pre and post-match comments. Even Shoaib Akhtar, in Bangladesh as a commentator, has shown restraint. In a rare occurance, Team Pakistan hasn’t been newsy enough.
By their own standards, Pakistan have had a quiet World T20, both on and off the field. There have been no last-ball finishes, no sudden batting collapses. They have won or lost without having their fans on the edge of their seats and frantically chewing away their nails. The loss to India, their ninth in World Cup games, was a dampener — a one-sided affair which didn’t live up to the hype around the match.
The Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra, have picked up a couple of Man of the Match awards each. The tweakers in green — Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez — have also benefitted from the conditions and have been effective. None of them though has had an exceptional game.
Sammy, the talking point
In the batting department, Umar Akmal came close to scoring a hundred while Ahmed Shehzad became the first Pakistani to score a century in all three formats. But these have not been the batting efforts that have become talking points at this World T20. The stories that are being repeatedly narrated in Bangladesh are about West Indian skipper Darren Sammy’s blitzkrieg in the final two overs to stun the Australians and, of course, those spectacular Dutch big-hitters.
With the business end of the tournament nearing, Pakistan have the chance to stand out. They have the opportunity to extend their record of reaching at least the semifinal stage of all the World T20s when they play West Indies in a must-win game on Tuesday — a virtual quarterfinal.
On eve of the crucial game, Sammy was still answering questions about the win against Australia. However, he grew serious when finally asked about the Pakistan spin attack.
“We definitely have to rotate the strike. The game against India, where we faced a spin-oriented attack, there were probably 60 per cent dot balls. So it’s something we’ve been working on. Hopefully we can rotate the strike and get the boundaries in between, and play much better against spin than we’ve done in the past. Spin is something that we have to conquer in that game,” Sammy said.
The West Indian skipper’s worry about the opposition’s slow bowlers is not unfounded. The Indian spinners restricted West Indies to 129. Pakistan skipper Hafeez also expected the contest to turn into a battle of the spinners.
“West Indies rely too much on their spinners. Pakistan has also got some of the best spinners in the world. The team which plays the spinners well will have the advantage in this game,” Hafeez said.
Pakistan and West Indies have had similar outings in the tournament. After losing their opening matches against India, both teams have gone on to win two on the trot. After their win over Australia, the defending champions are clear favourites to enter the last four. It’s a scenario that suits Pakistan, a team that is flying under the radar thus far in the tournament.