Babar could make an impact at WT20 - Hafeez
Left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar could be Pakistan's surprise package at the World T20, much like Raza Hasan was in the previous edition of the tournament, according to Mohammad Hafeez. While ruing the absence of left-arm seamer Mohammad Irfan, Hafeez, the T20 captain, insisted that the combination selected was "world-class", and named Babar and opening batsman Sharjeel Khan as players to watch out for.
Irfan, who last played against South Africa in the UAE, has since been on rest to recover from a hip injury, which he once again aggravated last week during a domestic T20 match in Rawalpindi. Had he remained fit, he was an automatic selection.
"We can still make an impact, and this impact could be in the shape of Zulfiqar Babar," Hafeez said. "Sharjeel Khan is another, and his explosive attitude could benefit the team. Irfan will be missed because his first two overs could have been lethal, but it's an opportunity for others to come and make an impact.
"If you see we have a very good combination for the conditions, if you look at World Twenty20. We have world-class spinners in Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Zulfiqar Babar, and along with this experience, we have youth in the form of [Mohammad] Talha and Bilawal Bhatti. Irfan is an impact bowler, there's no doubt about it, but unfortunately he couldn't recover."
The World T20 will be Hafeez's second as Pakistan captain. In 2012 he led the side into the semi-finals, where they lost to Sri Lanka by 16 runs. In the last two years, Hafeez has been pushing for a younger team, but both of his World T20 squads have included a couple of older names. Imran Nazir and Abdul Razzaq were picked in 2012; this time, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal have been recalled.
Hafeez justified their selection. "Yes, I have always encouraged youngsters but unfortunately the players we have relied on haven't performed in the recent past," he said. "The selectors thought it's a big event and you need experience so I think that's why they included Kamran Akmal and I wish him all the luck."
Pakistan are currently preparing for the Asia Cup, with three training sessions every day at the Gaddafi Stadium and the National Cricket Academy. Hafeez, the vice captain of the ODI team, said being defending champions has given the players a lot of confidence.
"You can't say we are the hot favourites for the event but we are taking the confidence that we are defending champions," he said. "You can't take anyone easy; you have to play good cricket to get good results. India is a good team. When we went there we beat them last year; we always try to bring good results against them and this time too we will try to bring good results."
Reacting to coach Moin Khan's remarks about the fear of failure in the team, Hafeez said it came with insecurity. "It comes when you feel insecure but when the management ensures that you will get maximum opportunity you obviously give your best and express yourself [without any fear]."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here