Hafeez banks on value of quicks
Fast bowling has always been Pakistan's most prized asset. To borrow from finance, it has been akin to a treasure chest of US government bonds, usually one of the safest investments on the planet. The batting in recent years has been like mid-market stocks, capable of volatility. Spin bowling has become a productive investment of late, with blue chips in Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi. But as capital from across the world flees to the safety of US government bonds in times of uncertainty, Mohammad Hafeez is confident his fast bowlers will recover from the expensive outings in the group stage and bowl like the match-winners they have been as the World Twenty20 gets tighter.
"We are blessed with some of the greats in Twenty20s, especially Ajmal and Afridi," Hafeez said. "This is our strength, even though we rely on our fast bowlers who unfortunately could not do well in the group matches. We are hoping they come up with good performances. Umar Gul is one of them."
The economy rates of Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Yasir Arafat after two games are 11.71, 9.66 and 9.25 respectively. The form of Gul, the joint-second highest wicket-taker in T20Is after Ajmal, is particularly worrying for Pakistan. Hafeez, though, said Gul was experienced enough to handle the issue.
"He realises when he is not doing the basics right," Hafeez said. "The good thing from what we can see is that he is very focused and working hard in practice. Bowling coach Mohammad Akram is working with him. We know he is our match-winner.
"Pitches in the group matches were really good for batting. Our bowlers tried hard to get something out of them but sometimes you can have an off day. Anyone can have an off day, anyone can bowl badly. But with the positive attitude among our bowlers, I am confident they can return to rhythm soon."
Pakistan played both their group games in Pallekele but Hafeez said that with the side having experience of playing in Colombo, the change of venue for the Super Eights would not make much difference. "I know the conditions will change from Kandy to Colombo, adjustability will be a factor. We have played enough here in Colombo, we know the conditions well."
Hafeez said playing the Super Eights in Colombo gave the Pakistan spinners more opportunity to make an impact. "The pitches in Colombo in the tournament have been batting pitches so far. Spinners play a role here, there is some turn. There was not much turn in Pallekele. We feel with the kind of spinners we have, we will do well here in the Super Eights."
While Afridi's role as legspinner will be crucial, Hafeez said Pakistan were also looking forward to his contributions with the bat. "We are relying on Afridi with both bat and ball. And we are very happy with his attitude during practice. He is batting very well during practice, and when the time comes, he will surely win the game for us."
The return of Kamran Akmal to the side has also boosted the batting, Hafeez said. Kamran smashed an unbeaten 92 as Pakistan came back from 91 for 5 to successfully chase 186 against India in a warm-up game. He also made an unbeaten 22 against Bangladesh, hitting the winning runs after Pakistan had sealed their qualifications to the Super Eights. "Kamran has been an excellent package for Pakistan as a wicketkeeper-batsman. Our batting has been strengthened by his comeback after a year."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo