IPL 'missed opportunity' for Pakistan players - Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's newly appointed Twenty20 captain, has said that his side has missed out on the opportunity to enhance their skills by not being part of the IPL. They will have to face up to Sri Lanka short on match practice, he said, but the team is focussed on their task and optimistic about putting in a strong showing.
"For about two months we have not been playing international matches, not even Twenty20," Hafeez said on the sidelines of the team's preparatory camp at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. "If you compare the whole world with us, everyone is there [at the IPL] getting practice in intense scenarios and enhancing their skills, but our players are missing out on that opportunity. We set up this training [camp] to give the boys a chance to quickly get themselves in shape."
While some of Sri Lanka's key players, like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga, are at the IPL, Pakistan's last series was in the UAE against England in February, and there they lost the three-match Twenty20 series 2-1. Since then however, the squad has taken on a new look, with the selectors picking specialist players for each format of the game and appointing Hafeez Twenty20 captain.
Hafeez said his squad will miss the experience of players like Misbah and Younis Khan, but has enough potential to produce a favourable result. "Most of our new players and the ones who are recalled are doing well on various platforms," he said. "Younis and Misbah are great players, but ultimately we have to move forward. It's not about individuals, we all trust each other, especially after Misbah has settled the atmosphere in the team.
"You will see that on this tour we will be very positive. I will try to maintain a good environment for them in the dressing room, and as a captain I am trying to give my players full confidence. Khalid [Latif], Ahmed [Shahzad] and Shoaib [Malik] have already played for Pakistan, and I am trying to create an atmosphere in which they do not feel that they are making a comeback of sorts to the Pakistan team."
His team, Hafeez said, will be wary of the demanding conditions in Sri Lanka and will not make any decisions on their playing combination beforehand. "Playing in Sri Lanka at home is always tough. We are wary about the conditions there, but we are optimistic about the result. The whole team is focussed, practice sessions are going well and we are trying to get ourselves into shape for international cricket."
"I think it's difficult to predict [the playing XI] beforehand, we have to look the conditions and the players will be used accordingly. It will depend on selectors, I don't want to predict things, there's a chance for everyone to do well."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent