Hafeez hopes seamers come good
Pakistan have done most things right in their build-up to the World Twenty20. They beat Australia in a hard-fought T20 series in the UAE and came back like the Pakistan of old to defeat India in the first warm-up game. Being Pakistan, they failed to chase 112 with nine batsmen against England in the second practice match but the win against New Zealand in their opening group game has given captain Mohammad Hafeez immense confidence.
Hafeez was pleased that the victory was set up by the inconsistent batting line-up making 177, and he spoke of the side's desire to deliver under pressure ahead of the final group game Bangladesh, one in which Pakistan must avoid heavy defeat to make the Super Eights.
"All the boys are focussed," Hafeez said. "The most important thing as a unit is every player wants to do well for Pakistan and is working hard. Every man is ready to perform under pressure. No one is thinking that under pressure, maine saamne nahin aana (I don't want to come out)."
Pakistan have lost only once in 44 meetings to Bangladesh, but Hafeez said they were not taking their opponents lightly. "We are not thinking as if we have already qualified [for the Super Eights]. We have to play well against Bangladesh, who we know can come hard. On certain days in T20, anybody can win. We are not going to take any one easy."
While the batting came good against New Zealand, it was the usually strong bowling that gave the Pakistan fans some tense moments before the 13-run win. All the three quick bowlers, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Yasir Arafat, were expensive, but Hafeez said they hadn't done badly.
"The boys worked hard in conditions which were difficult for them. There was no assistance in the pitch for the fast bowlers but they bowled well. It was the second game on the same track. That is why there was not that much for the seamers with the new ball. Yasir was the third seamer, I was bowling well so we did not use him much but I am sure he will come up with good performances in the tournament."
Pakistan, known for their great fast bowlers, have of late relied more on quality spinners in Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Hafeez himself, who said he was pleased with the bowling options he had. "We have got two of the best bowlers in the world, Afridi and Ajmal. We rely on them as match-winners. Ajmal is always difficult for any batsman to pick with his doosra.
"Afridi is a totally different spinner from Bangladesh's spinners, they rely more on left-arm spin. I am happy the way Afridi came up [against New Zealand], his confidence is growing. We are looking forward to him giving more performances with his bowling and batting.
"My bowling benefits the team always as I look to bowl economically [at one stage, he had figures of 3.3-0-6-0 against New Zealand]. I am not a wicket-taker. I am confident as a captain, as there are three bowlers sitting out, [Mohammad] Sami, [Abdul] Razzaq and [Raza] Hasan. Our bowling is our strength."
Hafeez did say, though, that there was room for the quicks to come up with a better showing than their performance against New Zealand. "We have always relied on our fast bowlers. Since the past couple of years, the spinners have been controlling the performances. That is why there is a bit less pressure on the fast bowlers. But they need to improve. Gul and Tanvir have been match-winners for us. I hope they will execute their skills better in the coming games."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo