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

Focus back on cricket for well-balanced Pakistan


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.

  • android_user 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.

  • android_user 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

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • android_user on February 25, 2014, 7:08 GMT

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

  • dummy4fb 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

  • No featured comments at the moment.