Flags of green and orange are set to wrestle for supremacy somewhere in the Sher-e-Bangla grand stands as India and Pakistan face off in the first ever T20-styled Asia Cup.
To battle hard on Mirpur’s flat decks, the men in green would have to take four key factors into account.
Beating India is not going to be easy, and here is what they need to consider:
Finalising the playing XI on merit
Some have delivered, and some have not; it is time the Pakistani selectors lay focus on merit and not reputation. Having last played in 2009, Khurram Manzoor has generated just 34 runs in his past five innings as opener for Pakistan, including three knocks well short of double figures.
In a pressure-packed clash with arch-rivals India, the opener’s poor run at the top makes him a liability for the side, lessening Pakistan’s chances of getting a confident, risk-free start.
A wiser-option for the team would be to declare Sharjeel Khan the opening partner with in-form Hafeez. Khan blasted 117 off 62 balls in the 3rd Pakistan Super League playoff and the Pakistan fans would love to see more of that Calypso-style belligerence.
Imad Wasim also deserves to be given a run in the middle-order. The young gun’s commanding bottom-hand affords him leadership against pace. His ability to pry out gaps against spin in crucial circumstances can be instrumental in a late-order batting assault.
Treating India to a spin-heavy attack
Interestingly, in the last ten innings that India has batted in Mirpur, opposition spinners have picked up 22 wickets at an average of only 19. How is that for some encouragement against India’s relentless batting order?
The thing with effective spin is that it forces rival batsmen to rethink their approach completely, just after a fast bowler has finished bowling an over or two. Pace on one end, and spin on the other, would deter the likes of Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli from getting adjusted to easy, comfortable lengths.
Pakistan needs to cash in on this opportunity by sticking with its existing spin trio Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Imad Wasim, whilst exploring the options of playing an odd specialist. With Yasir Shah’s golden arm unavailable owing to a three-month ban, a left-arm spinner may just deliver the angle and flight necessary to create doubt in the batsman’s mind.
Heard about Quetta Gladiators’ all-round protégé Mohammad Nawaz? That bloke can offer plenty of Jadeja magic in Dhaka.
As for the fast men, India should only be treated to fast-bowling of the highest quality. Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Amir would do.
An Anwar Ali or Mohammad Sami appearance is most likely to break expectations, than records, so please refrain.
Targeting batting powerplays
Numbers don’t lie. As of November last year, India has won five out of its six T20 games, whereas Pakistan has managed just one triumph — powerplay scoring has been the fundamental difference.
In the first six overs of these games, Indian openers have leveraged a variety of gaps down-the-ground and on the on-side, generating an average run-rate of 8.3. Such a head-start affords the batting side enough runs beforehand to practice mid-innings circumspection.
However, if caution becomes the main goal during the first six overs of the powerplay itself, scores of 170 would rarely be crossed.
And this has been Pakistan’s tragic tale with the bat. The men in green have managed to pass the mark just once, and in order to shift the trend, all they need to do is dab the ball “finer” along the inner ring, make doubles out of singles, and unhesitatingly go aerial if the ball is there to be blasted.
Jaspirit Bumrah, the reworked face of Indian pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, likes to target the corridor just outside off. Straight-bat strokes instead of cross-faced attempts will be crucial in giving India a taste of their own medicine a run-rate well beyond eight.
Play it clever boys, play it clever.
Fielding with vigilance, and reliability
Take a good, hard look at your fielding opponents: Jadeja, Kohli, Raina each with a rocket-arm and eagle-eye. Won’t always take them on, right? Pakistan needs to make sure India feels equally skeptic when looking to score across off and leg.
Vigilance in posture is critical, as it cuts the response time in half. Ahmed Shehzad and Shahid Afridi two of Pakistan’s finest at cover need to zero in towards the pitch when the faster men charge in. As Kohli or Dhoni look to stop the ball and scamper across for a run, which they very often do, these men at cover are just a swing and hit away from sending the batsmen packing.
Additionally, in India’s three-match home-series against Sri Lanka this month, 70% of its batsmen have owed their wickets to catches. Now, if Pakistan drops a ferocious Rohit Sharma on a single digit score, the juggernaut might as well end up with triple figures in the end no matter how hard the bowlers try to make up for it.
There is equal responsibility on Sarfraz Ahmed’s shoulders, mind you, who needs to create half chances count. He was found wanting on a few occasions in the PSL, but there will be no room for error against India.
Ultimately, it is the proper execution of set plans that would dictate Pakistan’s chances of victory.
Courtesy : Dawn News