Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 24, 2014

Focus back on cricket for well-balanced Pakistan

34

The uncertainty over Pakistan's participation in the Asia Cup resulted in an anxious period from mid-December to mid-January that ended when the ACC CEO Syed Ashraful Huq confirmed the side would play. When the team arrived in Dhaka, however, on February 22, there was hardly anyone talking about those three weeks, as the focus quickly shifted to Pakistan's tournament opener against Sri Lanka in Fatullah.

The PCB had never officially said the side wouldn't travel to Bangladesh but given the political tension, particularly the diplomatic row between the two countries, there was always a sense that something might go wrong. So far since their arrival, though, Pakistan are happy with the security arrangements given to them by the BCB and, by extension, the government.

The team manager Zakir Khan has said that the extra security has been assuring and they have felt comfortable so far. "It has been sorted out and we've been promised VIP security," he said. "We've been here for a couple of days, and they have provided whatever we have asked for. We are quite happy."

Their commute between the team hotel and Shere Bangla National Stadium has been given a high-security cordon and even when they walked into the hotel after their first practice session, police lined up to clear the way inside the Hotel Sonargaon lobby.

Despite how the sentiments in Bangladesh were after the Pakistan parliament and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan condemned the death of a war criminal, there have so far been very few questions regarding politics or the diplomatic row during the team's two interactions with the media.

When asked whether he expects support in Bangladesh like the kind the previous Pakistan teams have enjoyed here, Misbah-ul-Haq was optimistic to the point that he said it was like playing in Lahore.

"We always enjoy playing in Bangladesh," Misbah said. "When we are supporting Bangladesh, people are supporting Bangladesh. But when we are playing against any other team, it looks like we are playing at home. It is very nice to be here, and play in the Shere Bangla National Stadium. We played the World Cup quarterfinal here in 2011. It was also a game where we felt we are in Lahore. It is good to be here."

Misbah's optimism doesn't quite match the current mood in the country, but cricket is too popular in Bangladesh for this to be made a stand-alone issue. There has been a lot of support for Pakistan's cricket team in Bangladesh over the years and when they did crush West Indies in Mirpur, that local fan-following was evident.

The other, more pertinent, task for Misbah will be to keep his relatively young side away from any further questions about these issues. The likes of Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Talha are on their first tour to Bangladesh and have not even played club cricket here, unlike a few Pakistan cricketers.

However, they all made an impression against Sri Lanka recently. Maqsood was the most impressive, batting at a 40-plus average in the five-match ODI series back in December. Sharjeel made just one half-century, but Misbah reckons that the batsman can go places.

Anwar Ali and Talha were impressive with the ball, and the latter is all set to make his ODI debut in this tournament. These two bowlers would be vital in the absence of Mohammad Irfan who sustained an injury during a domestic game.

Fawad Alam makes a comeback at the expense of Asad Shafiq while Ahmed Shehzad will look to continue his purple patch. Accompanying these youngsters are experienced heads such as Misbah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul and Junaid Khan. This is possibly the most balanced side in the tournament, but with a less-experienced seam attack that will be led by the in-form Junaid.

However, none of the other teams have had to deal with the sort of additional responsibility thrust upon Pakistan's players, who will have to avoid all controversies regarding political and diplomatic tensions, and keep things as normal as possible.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AltafPatel on February 25, 2014, 12:20 GMT

    Disappointed as Nasir Jamshed not in the team. Though he didn't do well in SA and UAE, he has very good bat in sub-continent and his 2 centuries in 3 ODIs in India tour last year proves that.

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 10:13 GMT

    Time and again PAK bowlers are becoming ordinary allowing fluent Thirimanne & veteran Sangakkara scoring at their will & pleasure as if they could easily cross 300+ if this happens ,PAK will have to cut a very sorry figure in this opening game. Opening game is always important for Pakistan .We saw them returning to Pakistan. Without winning a single match in the Champions Trophy recently. Again Pakistan will have to face the Indians .Though without their regular Captain MSDhoni,India looks fresh .In fact Pakistan had never won a single match in the Onedayer World Cup. Though this tournament is not so big as WC,here too there more good teams apart from Pakistan are competing.BD,IND& SL. SO Pakistan will have to take out all the weapons in their armor here ,if they wish to survive& prevail

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    Until now after the 17th over,SL is scoring fairly well.Sangakkaraa& Thirimanne are Playing freely.there is no trace of any speciality Bowling from the Pakistan Bowlers. Hop to observe some change when Syed Ajmal takes over. In this match,for a change after a long time,he will have to perform..he should prove his spirit of Bowling which prompted him to challenge even the Veteran Sachin Tendulkar. He sarcastically had said that the reason for Sachin Tendulkar left one day cricket because he was afraid of facing him ! That confidence he should prove here by taking at least 4 of the SriLankan wickets. Otherwise everyone would be tempted to label Pakistan as an inconsistent team in the world.

  • on February 25, 2014, 8:44 GMT

    Weren't pakistan favoured to win the champions trophy in england too? Personally I will be happy to see them do well considering they and all the pakis the unlucky not to play or see them at home. But your factless support will not win it for them. Mark my words.

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    strong bowling line up but batting line up is weak but we have misbah and afridi the world best players in team

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    Pakistan is always considered as balanced Team. But I doubt their chances in this Asiacup. SL looks more balanced than PAKISTAN. IN case Jayawardne comes back to his normal form of scoring,the fate of Pakistan seems to be hanging again in Balance.Anything beyond 275 from SL could stop Pakistan fro winning this match. But still unless Ajmal delivers by taking wickets ,PAK could loose the match .

  • Syed_imran_abbas on February 25, 2014, 7:43 GMT

    Good luck boys.. Spinners will play a vital role

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    cannot understand which type of balance that got by PAK. few batsman dominated in UAE & their bowling and fielding disaster. only shehazad & misbah scored heavily on last UAE tour. others are in out of touch. so how they become more balanced than others.

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    really Pakistan is balanced team but I have doubt for their win

  • on February 25, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    @Abhimanyu Mazumdaar ....... Stop Trash Talk ....... by the way r u talking about the team india which tasted defeat last year against avg Pakistani team at their own soil .... Pakistan has won 4 out of 5 One day series and all were away from home... can i hear how many India has won last year away from home.... be ready to taste the defeat against any minnow BD or Afg... c the Poll if u have any doubts regarding hot favrt team .... Plz publish this CRICINFO

  • AltafPatel on February 25, 2014, 12:20 GMT

    Disappointed as Nasir Jamshed not in the team. Though he didn't do well in SA and UAE, he has very good bat in sub-continent and his 2 centuries in 3 ODIs in India tour last year proves that.

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 10:13 GMT

    Time and again PAK bowlers are becoming ordinary allowing fluent Thirimanne & veteran Sangakkara scoring at their will & pleasure as if they could easily cross 300+ if this happens ,PAK will have to cut a very sorry figure in this opening game. Opening game is always important for Pakistan .We saw them returning to Pakistan. Without winning a single match in the Champions Trophy recently. Again Pakistan will have to face the Indians .Though without their regular Captain MSDhoni,India looks fresh .In fact Pakistan had never won a single match in the Onedayer World Cup. Though this tournament is not so big as WC,here too there more good teams apart from Pakistan are competing.BD,IND& SL. SO Pakistan will have to take out all the weapons in their armor here ,if they wish to survive& prevail

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    Until now after the 17th over,SL is scoring fairly well.Sangakkaraa& Thirimanne are Playing freely.there is no trace of any speciality Bowling from the Pakistan Bowlers. Hop to observe some change when Syed Ajmal takes over. In this match,for a change after a long time,he will have to perform..he should prove his spirit of Bowling which prompted him to challenge even the Veteran Sachin Tendulkar. He sarcastically had said that the reason for Sachin Tendulkar left one day cricket because he was afraid of facing him ! That confidence he should prove here by taking at least 4 of the SriLankan wickets. Otherwise everyone would be tempted to label Pakistan as an inconsistent team in the world.

  • on February 25, 2014, 8:44 GMT

    Weren't pakistan favoured to win the champions trophy in england too? Personally I will be happy to see them do well considering they and all the pakis the unlucky not to play or see them at home. But your factless support will not win it for them. Mark my words.

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    strong bowling line up but batting line up is weak but we have misbah and afridi the world best players in team

  • Snambidi on February 25, 2014, 7:47 GMT

    Pakistan is always considered as balanced Team. But I doubt their chances in this Asiacup. SL looks more balanced than PAKISTAN. IN case Jayawardne comes back to his normal form of scoring,the fate of Pakistan seems to be hanging again in Balance.Anything beyond 275 from SL could stop Pakistan fro winning this match. But still unless Ajmal delivers by taking wickets ,PAK could loose the match .

  • Syed_imran_abbas on February 25, 2014, 7:43 GMT

    Good luck boys.. Spinners will play a vital role

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:27 GMT

    cannot understand which type of balance that got by PAK. few batsman dominated in UAE & their bowling and fielding disaster. only shehazad & misbah scored heavily on last UAE tour. others are in out of touch. so how they become more balanced than others.

  • on February 25, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    really Pakistan is balanced team but I have doubt for their win

  • on February 25, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    @Abhimanyu Mazumdaar ....... Stop Trash Talk ....... by the way r u talking about the team india which tasted defeat last year against avg Pakistani team at their own soil .... Pakistan has won 4 out of 5 One day series and all were away from home... can i hear how many India has won last year away from home.... be ready to taste the defeat against any minnow BD or Afg... c the Poll if u have any doubts regarding hot favrt team .... Plz publish this CRICINFO

  • Adaa on February 25, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    I can Ahmad Shehzad being man of the tournament, positive vibes.

  • on February 25, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    Pakistan always been victims of criticism and have been targeted by most of the Indian and English/Australian analyst as the week team. But the fact of the matter is Pakistan is always amongst the Top teams in the world. Pakistan have consistency in its ranking which fluctuate 3,4 all the time and sometime they even climb up to no 2 and 1 spot even. While India have it's 80% Success inside their country. They always rely on their home grounds and they are very poor when away. They have been smart to play more on home ground to maintain good spot on the rankings. Whenever they are away they just keep loosing. Even they have lost to Bangladesh.

    Pakistan is the only Team in 2013 who didn't lost any series but still Indian analyst consider as Pakistan a week team only to decrease the moral of the team and the nation.

    Sri Lanka is better team even than India so I seek a tough competition today. But hopefully as SL have poor record against Pakistan. so My Fav and Support for PAKISTAN.

  • on February 25, 2014, 6:10 GMT

    I can see from here the Winners - Pakistan !!

  • on February 25, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    I am hoping to see afridi back in form and for the new quickies like talha and ali to perform well in this cup to gain there spots in the Pakistani odi side................... GOOD LUCK PAKISTAN AND BRING THE CUP HOME BOY (inshallah)

  • on February 25, 2014, 5:19 GMT

    @abhimanyu feel for you .. pak all the way .. dont make lame excuses

  • on February 25, 2014, 2:41 GMT

    With a bit of sanity and resilience in top batting order of Pakistan , it seems they are a good side ... they got two very handy-spin allrounders like shahid and hafeez one top class spinner ajmal and two good fast bowlers.. my guess is pakistan will win

  • Haqparast on February 25, 2014, 2:32 GMT

    @@ Abhimanyu Mazumdar - Are you really serious or what? You must be kidding....Pakistan is an average team while you are looking a India - Lanka final.....ohhh come on....Pakistan is the most valuable and extraordinary side with way much talent especially than sriLanka......Have you really forgotten last month beating of Srilanka with the hands of Pakistani team in UAE......both in One dayers and Test...I think right now, Srilanka is the most boring side to watch among all these teams.....just look at thier play in the last tests against Pakistan and Bangladesh....They always play negative cricket and for draw only.....

    No one can predict anything in cricket but it must be India - Pakistan contest in the final.....With Srilanka in the finals....it will already become one sided show.....

  • ELECTRIC_LOCO_WAP4. on February 24, 2014, 23:32 GMT

    All those guys talking about showing something to BIG 3......you showing nothing. Big 3 is formed based on revenues..till you show revenues on par with 3... You are not showing anything

  • Saadcricketlover on February 24, 2014, 23:01 GMT

    This is the best possible team for Asia cup, But bad selection for the t20 world cup. Good luck Pakistan.

  • on February 24, 2014, 22:30 GMT

    Sri Lanka should be favorite to win this followed by Pakistan and India. Sri lanka is the most balanced side and in good form. Pakistan batting and fielding needs to improve if are to challenge Sri Lanka but team Pakistan will have a psychological advantage over Sri Lanka (they won a ODI series against lanka recently and has a better H2H record). India's batting is pretty good but there below average bowlers will be taken to the cleaners.

  • P4K1ST4N_7 on February 24, 2014, 22:24 GMT

    @Abhimanyu Mazumdar , good jokes! but we are not amuzed. first try to produce a decent bowler like Ajmal.

  • jaffers1 on February 24, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    @Abhimanyu Mazumda.. Well said. This below ave. team recently won series against SA and SL and last bilateral series against IN in India. Shame on you on misrepresenting facts and degrading a well balanced and best team in tournament when your own team IN is below sub par. Wow. Keep it up.

  • on February 24, 2014, 21:57 GMT

    Pakistan did good in 2013. I hope batting line will fire back this time. Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti can bat. I hope they will win this cup.

  • DurtyWurk on February 24, 2014, 21:27 GMT

    We have a solid team here and are really positioned well to atleast make it to the finals. With that said.. picking the starting 11 can be a bit challenging. There's a part of me that wants to bring in Fawad Alam for strengthening our middle order and let Sharjeel sit out. We can open with Shehzad and Hafeez. Additionally, a choosing between Bhatti/Anwar Ali is a tough task.

    My starting 11 would be:

    1. Ahmed Shehzad (Bat) 2. Mohammed Hafeez (Bat/Bowl) 3. Shoaib Maqsood (Bat) 4. Misbah-ul-Haq (Bat) 5. Umar Akmal (Bat/Wk) 6. Fawad Alam (Bat/Bowl) 7. Shahid Afridi (Bat/Bowl) 8. Bilawal Bhatti/Anwar Ali (Bat/Bowl) 9. Saeed Ajmal (Bowl) 10. Umar Gul (Bat/Bowl) 11. Junaid Khan

  • on February 24, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    Hoping for a Pakistan win.

  • on February 24, 2014, 20:11 GMT

    Pakistan is an average team with a below average batting line up. The good news for them is Sri Lanka is weak and India is low on confidence with the loosing streak. Inspite of this I would fancy an india lanka final. overall I think the entire concept of an asia cup is overated and all this would do is provide some confidence to a side that wins

  • on February 24, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Sharjeel and maqsood performance will matter alot. If they scored some runs pak will get wins comfortabily. Afridi will respond good in those conditions. Bowling side rately disappoints. Misbah will be holding the cup at the end if he kept his boys motivation level high. He is a good captain. Goodluck misbah and the team

  • on February 24, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Inshallha pak will win again asia cup and i agree that pakistan perform well under pressure just do good against england in w.c cup 19 semi final and show there importance to big 3 now we are stand alone but we are stand for dignity

  • BowledYa on February 24, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    With batting clicking, and not depending so much on Misbah now, Pakistan is once again a formidable team. I would be very surprised if they do not win the tournament. Go Big Green!

  • asadkum on February 24, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from NY, USA............ It gonna be an exciting match..........Good luck Misbah & Co.

  • asadkum on February 24, 2014, 16:34 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from NY............... Bangladeshi people loves sports especially cricket .....so those political talks are immaterial here..............Hoping to see exciting matches. .........

  • on February 24, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    Favorites or un favorites tag has never mattered for team Pakistan thru out history. They can loose to afghanistan and also win the asia cup, this is how much unpredictable we are. Any how,,,,best of luck to Team MISBAH

  • on February 24, 2014, 16:27 GMT

    When there are tension/pressures/controversies, PAK team always perform. I expect a triller Asia Cup this time.

  • on February 24, 2014, 15:21 GMT

    they are coming from a break . they have been good in last series. Team looks well settled. apart from sharjeel rest were good in last series. Sharjeel needs to perform well as he is in wc t20 squad as well.

    These political talks will fade away as soon as team will enter the playing field. a bit added pressure but thats where seniors and management comes in to take all that themselves and keep young lot away from it.

    Hoping to see good games. good luck.

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  • on February 24, 2014, 15:21 GMT

    they are coming from a break . they have been good in last series. Team looks well settled. apart from sharjeel rest were good in last series. Sharjeel needs to perform well as he is in wc t20 squad as well.

    These political talks will fade away as soon as team will enter the playing field. a bit added pressure but thats where seniors and management comes in to take all that themselves and keep young lot away from it.

    Hoping to see good games. good luck.

  • on February 24, 2014, 16:27 GMT

    When there are tension/pressures/controversies, PAK team always perform. I expect a triller Asia Cup this time.

  • on February 24, 2014, 16:28 GMT

    Favorites or un favorites tag has never mattered for team Pakistan thru out history. They can loose to afghanistan and also win the asia cup, this is how much unpredictable we are. Any how,,,,best of luck to Team MISBAH

  • asadkum on February 24, 2014, 16:34 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from NY............... Bangladeshi people loves sports especially cricket .....so those political talks are immaterial here..............Hoping to see exciting matches. .........

  • asadkum on February 24, 2014, 16:40 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from NY, USA............ It gonna be an exciting match..........Good luck Misbah & Co.

  • BowledYa on February 24, 2014, 18:05 GMT

    With batting clicking, and not depending so much on Misbah now, Pakistan is once again a formidable team. I would be very surprised if they do not win the tournament. Go Big Green!

  • on February 24, 2014, 18:32 GMT

    Inshallha pak will win again asia cup and i agree that pakistan perform well under pressure just do good against england in w.c cup 19 semi final and show there importance to big 3 now we are stand alone but we are stand for dignity

  • on February 24, 2014, 19:25 GMT

    Sharjeel and maqsood performance will matter alot. If they scored some runs pak will get wins comfortabily. Afridi will respond good in those conditions. Bowling side rately disappoints. Misbah will be holding the cup at the end if he kept his boys motivation level high. He is a good captain. Goodluck misbah and the team

  • on February 24, 2014, 20:11 GMT

    Pakistan is an average team with a below average batting line up. The good news for them is Sri Lanka is weak and India is low on confidence with the loosing streak. Inspite of this I would fancy an india lanka final. overall I think the entire concept of an asia cup is overated and all this would do is provide some confidence to a side that wins

  • on February 24, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    Hoping for a Pakistan win.