India v Pakistan, U-19 World Cup quarter-final

Acclimatised Pakistan ready for India

Pakistan had been constantly reminded of the different conditions awaiting them, which is why their quick adjustment during the three one-dayers against Australia had been a huge boost leading into the World Cup

George Binoy in Townsville

August 19, 2012

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Babar Azam and Unmukt Chand with the Asia Cup trophy, Pakistan-Under 19s v India-Under 19s, Final, Under-19s Asia Cup, Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur, July 1, 2012
India and Pakistan met before this year, at the Under-19 Asia Cup, in two tense contests © Associated Press
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When the Pakistan team arrived at their service apartments in Townsville on Friday afternoon, having made the trip from Brisbane, there were five Indian cricketers sitting in the lobby. Had these been senior teams from the two countries, whose players are familiar with each other, there may have been an exchange of greetings. Not between the Under-19 cricketers. As the Pakistanis stood there in their green blazers, with their suitcases and kit bags, waiting to check in, they merely exchanged glances with the Indians. The quarterfinalists sizing each other up ahead of Monday's contest at Tony Ireland Stadium.

These sides have met before, at the Under-19 Asia Cup this year, in two tense contests. During the league phase of that tournament, Pakistan won a match they could have won more easily, by one run. In the final, India had to settle for a tie after dominating most of the chase. Both games were high-scoring contests in Kuala Lumpur; the conditions in Queensland are not as conducive to run-making.

Pakistan came to Australia earlier than most teams, in late July for three one-dayers on the Gold Coast. They won that series against Australia 2-1, a commendable result considering it was their first time here. Their performance in those matches led Australia's coach Stuart Law to remark that one could see Pakistan had been "playing together for quite a while."

This Pakistan Under-19 squad has been together since January, when they toured South Africa. They then played the Asia Cup and had a camp at the National Cricket Academy before coming to Australia. The captain Babar Azam and coach Sabih Azhar spoke of how the team had been constantly reminded of the different conditions awaiting them, which is why their quick adjustment during the three matches against Australia had been a huge boost for the players.

"We are playing as a unit and we have created a friendly team atmosphere," said Azhar. "Now they have developed the winning habit."

That winning habit has been on display during the warm-up matches of the World Cup and during the group games. Pakistan won everything, beating New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland to finish top of Group B.

The adjustment, however, hasn't been easy. After a long flight to Australia, Azam said most of the players slept for ages to rest and recuperate. When they awoke, they found unfamiliarity all around them. For starters, the adaptors for their mobile phones wouldn't fit into the plug points. They sought out each other and the officials for help and eventually queued up outside an electric supplies shop to buy them.

There's more. The players are staying in service apartments in Australia, not in hotels, so they were told by the team management that they would have to cook their meals and clean up after themselves. "Cooking, I never do at home," said Azam, speaking for most teenage boys on the subcontinent. "We've come here and we had to do it, so it's been hard. Sometimes we eat out; sometimes we cook here. First five days we went to McDonalds all the time. We are washing clothes in the machine, washing crockery as well."

 
 
After a long flight to Australia, Babar Azam said most of the players slept for ages to rest and recuperate. When they awoke, they found unfamiliarity all around them. For starters, the adaptors for their mobile phones wouldn't fit into the plug points. They sought out each other and the officials for help and eventually queued up outside an electric supplies shop to buy them. There's more. The players are staying in service apartments in Australia, not in hotels, so they were told by the team management that they would have to cook their meals and clean up after themselves.
 

Imam-ul-Haq, a top-order batsman and a nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq, recounted how they set off fire alarms "three or four times" in their rooms. "The first one was his [Babar's] fault, he was just cooking an omelette I think," Imam said. "It was the first day, we were very hungry, Usman [Qadir], Babar and I. Suddenly the fire alarm went off; we thought we'd cause a panic. Usman said, 'Don't panic, don't panic.' We just held a towel near the fire alarm and opened the window. We were relieved and thought we will never cook food again."

But they have cooked; well, some have while the others have eaten. According to Imam, the fast bowlers Mir Hamza and Saad Ali, and vice-captain Umar Waheed are the chefs in the squad. "We just want to eat and they cook for us. When we visit their rooms, we clean their rooms after eating and we wash their crockery. So we help them," says Imam. "We really enjoyed it because all of us were in one room and we cooked together. It's a wonderful experience because we've been together for five or six months and we had never had this kind of experience."

How well an individual makes these adjustments affects how comfortable he feels in a foreign country and Imam knows it. "If you're playing cricket and going out of the country, we have to face these difficulties and responsibilities," he said. "If we have a problem in cooking, we can't give that an excuse to our coach."

Their acclimatization issues lasted for about five days and Azam said helping each other get used to how life functions in Australia had helped the team bond. "It's like family work," he said. "First five days were very difficult, to adjust to all this and play in the World Cup, but our support staff have really helped us. Now all the players have adjusted very well."

Pakistan have been performing like an extremely well-adjusted team. They beat Afghanistan by 109 runs, Scotland by nine wickets and New Zealand by five wickets. Between Pakistan's first and second victories, on August 12, India lost to West Indies in Townsville, and from then Azam's team has been talking about this quarterfinal clash. They did not really doubt they would top their group and therefore play India, who were likely to finish second in theirs.

"They are looking forward to it. That gives me confidence," says Azhar. "They are talking about [Indian] players, talking about strategies."

Both Azhar and Azam believe the exposure their players got during the Asia Cup to the pressures of an India-Pakistan contest will help them handle Monday's quarterfinal better. "The boys know the Indian players," said Azam. "If we hadn't played against India in the Asia Cup and now suddenly had to face them in the quarterfinal, there would have been more pressure. Not so much now."

Monday's quarterfinal at the Tony Ireland Stadium will be the first time Pakistan are playing in Townsville. Like how they did when they first arrived in Australia, they'll hope to settle in quickly.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by kc69 on (August 22, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

Was a great match and all those who predicted Pak win...tough luck buddy...here we go to Semi Finals as the only subcontinental team lets hope we win this.Jai hind

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (August 20, 2012, 9:49 GMT)

Still Courtney Walsh has doen a good job with these kids Beaton was looking real sharp from the game i saw v India he was averaging 86 87 mph which is the same if not quicker than Steyn at Lords yesterday.

Posted by screamingeagle on (August 20, 2012, 8:48 GMT)

Good job India, Still there and still fighting. Thats what matters. Good Luck against NZ. Try not to keep your supporters on knife edge next time. :)

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

I agree with Omar khan....What has brought the positive change though???

Posted by dheerajshetty on (August 20, 2012, 8:24 GMT)

Wow, what a close finish, Pakistan really bowled well to comeback into the game, but India held on to win and qualify to semis, great match indeed. Sandeep's 1st over was crucial for India's win.

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (August 20, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

Kinda ironic that an Indian hit the winning runs for NZ after W.I fast bowlers destroyed India in the group stage dunno how they managed to loose this

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:19 GMT)

Excellent match! Good win for India and well played Pakistan. Let's hope India win the WC.

Posted by zimmby on (August 20, 2012, 8:19 GMT)

Gashhhh..... !!!! I thought India will reach the target rather comfortably after restricting Pak to 136. Didn't see them winning today's match based on how they fared in league stage, but now am certain they won't lift the cup... that's for sure. :'(

Posted by GasPipe on (August 20, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

Oh New Zealand, you guys had me pacing the lounge, impatiently waiting for CricInfo's live feed to load and see what happened on the last ball. A thriller, and I couldn't even see it on TV! Sodhi you legend, on to the semifinals with confidence boys!

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

Zahidsaltin, r u an idiot? NZ just made the semi-finals by beating West Indies. How did your team go?

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George BinoyClose
George Binoy Assistant Editor After a major in Economics and nine months in a financial research firm, George realised that equity, capital and the like were not for him. He decided that he wanted to be one of those lucky few who did what they love at work. Alas, his prodigious talent was never spotted and he had to reconcile himself to the fact that he would never earn his money playing cricket for his country, state or even district. He jumped at the opportunity to work for ESPNcricinfo and is now confident of mastering the art of office cricket
Tournament Results
Aust U19 v India U19 at Townsville - Aug 26, 2012
India U19 won by 6 wickets (with 14 balls remaining)
NZ U19 v S Africa U19 at Townsville - Aug 25, 2012
S Africa U19 won by 8 wickets (with 212 balls remaining)
Afghan U19 v S Lanka U19 at Brisbane - Aug 24, 2012
S Lanka U19 won by 7 wickets (with 66 balls remaining)
B'desh U19 v Pakistan U19 at Townsville - Aug 24, 2012
B'desh U19 won by 5 wickets (with 22 balls remaining)
England U19 v W Indies U19 at Townsville - Aug 24, 2012
England U19 won by 13 runs
Ireland U19 v Scot U19 at Brisbane - Aug 24, 2012
Scot U19 won by 5 wickets (with 50 balls remaining)
More results »
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