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Embrace the expectation - Hafeez

Alan Gardner

March 15, 2014

Comments: 88 | Text size: A | A

Mohammad Hafeez scored 52, Bangladesh v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 4, 2014
Mohammad Hafeez said that the extra pressure of an Pakistan-India contest can be be used as motivation © AFP
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Players/Officials: Mohammad Hafeez | Shahid Afridi | MS Dhoni
Series/Tournaments: World T20
Teams: India | Pakistan

India's victory over Pakistan in the inaugural World T20 seven years ago changed the face of cricket, igniting the interest that led to the success of the IPL and creation of sundry other T20 leagues. In the most volatile of formats, the most volatile of rivals will kick off the Super 10 stage of this tournament on Friday, a fixture that is eagerly anticipated the world over, not least in Bangladesh. Unsurprisingly, the subject dominated Pakistan's arrival in Dhaka.

Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's captain in the shortest format, politely refrained from amping up the pressure, saying it was a game his players should enjoy. Sohail Tanvir went even further with the entente cordial, describing India as having "the strongest batting line-up". Pakistan, who swept India aside in dramatic fashion two weeks ago on the way to the final of the Asia Cup, are obviously at ease with themselves.

"I always say that an India-Pakistan match is full of pressure but you enjoy playing it," Hafeez said. "As a captain I am happy that it's the first match and if you do well in such an opening match you obviously feel much easier in upcoming matches as far as pressure is concerned. Obviously you can't take any team with lighter hands but in an India match, we would want to start off doing well."

Although Pakistan have only beaten India once in five T20s, the memory of their Asia Cup win is still fresh - even if their hero on the night, Shahid Afridi, has not travelled with the team to Bangladesh. Hafeez said that Afridi, now something of an ageing rockstar within a rejuvenated team, had been given extra time to improve his fitness and would join the squad on Monday.

India were missing a talisman of their own during the defeat in Dhaka but Hafeez played down the significance of MS Dhoni's return from a period of rest. Pakistan are the most successful side in the World T20's short history - having lifted the trophy once, to go alongside two semi-finals and the 2007 final - but India could end the tournament in possession of all three global ICC titles. Never mind the history, it is a heady mix.

"We beat India in the Asia Cup and with the exception of any individual it doesn't make any difference," Hafeez said. "But, yes, I understand that there are some key players that can make a difference and Dhoni's leadership has been good in last four, five years. But for us it's not a talking point that he wasn't there and now he is here to lead India. What we need is to play well whoever is our opponent and that is the most important thing.

"The element of pressure is actually a factor of motivation. It is always an extreme pleasure with the crowd response and we always enjoy playing against India and for the upcoming match we are very excited."

Eleven of Pakistan's T20 squad took part in the Asia Cup, with the form of Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Saeed Ajmal particularly impressive, alongside that of Afridi. Pakistan have a reputation for unpredictability but their current form, under new coach, Moin Khan, bodes well. "Momentum in any tournament plays an important role and with sort of cricket we have played in Asia Cup, we have got that momentum," Hafeez said.

Tanvir is one of the T20 specialists added to the side and he has a rare perspective on Pakistan's relationship with India. He made his debut against India at the 2007 tournament, as well as played in the final, and he is one of the few Pakistan players to have experienced playing in the IPL, with Rajasthan Royals, before they were shut out.

"It's been always like this," Tanvir said of the tempestuous nature of Pakistan-India fixtures. "With the inclusion of Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj, India are I think the strongest batting line-up. But then again, it's not a game of big names, it depends on how you perform on a given day.

"I have played with a lot of Indian players. I shared a dressing room with Ashwin and Yuvi. They are good friends off the field. The tension or the hot gestures that you used to see are still like that, it hasn't changed over the last 10-15 years, but off the field we are good friends." In a few days, those friends will become enemies again.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by indianzen on (March 19, 2014, 17:45 GMT)

Attitude is what I respect with the PAK. Umar Akmal, Misbah, Hafeez, Tanveer and Ajmal are excellent talents with great thirst to perform well. However, the attitude of Gul, Shehzad, Kamran, Afridi are letting them down...

Posted by Solid_Snake on (March 19, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

Pak management don't even know which player to include in which format.. Shoaib Malik's career has been destroyed by our own hands..Shoaib is no T20 material..He is a perfect player for ODI's..But he is given chances one after another in T20..He is constantly failing..Don't know why he is selected again..Strange think tank we got here

Posted by hellothereeveryone on (March 19, 2014, 10:53 GMT)

How come Shoaib Malik is in the team. This guy has not performed in ages and after getting married has gone really downhill????????? On the other hand how come players like Abdul Razzaq are kept out when they were performing till the very last match they played in. An all rounder like Abdul Razzaq deserves to be in the T20 team. He is a match winner on his own. Its nice to see the return of Kamran Akmal though!

Posted by Solid_Snake on (March 19, 2014, 7:57 GMT)

@ Nampally:Pakistan might face 3 Afridi's? Lol..Pakistan knows how to counter all of those 3 Afridi's..Pak bowlers have done it in past & they'll do it again.It's Pak batsmen who always lets the team down.I wonder why all admire Indian batsmen so much.Theyare good but hardly performs against Pak...In the contest of "Pak bowlers & Indian Batsmen"....Bowlers always had edge..pick up the last few matches of both the teams..Indian batsmen rarely click against Pak bowlers..They easily score 300+ against any other team..but they are always restricted to an Avg score of less than 250 against Pak..& that only happens when Dhoni or Kohli scores.. The real battle starts when Pak batsmen are out there facing Indian Bowlers...Pak batsmen gets confused there & throws away their wickets...

Posted by Yousafzay on (March 18, 2014, 19:46 GMT)

Dear Please my Humble request is that avoid sohail tanvir in selection otherwise pak will face the consequences

Posted by   on (March 18, 2014, 15:38 GMT)

1-Shahzad/NasirJ 2-K.Akmal 3-Hafeez 4-Sohaib 5-Afridi 6-U.Akmal 7-Babar 8-Gul 9-Ajmal 10-Talha/S.Tanveer 11-Junaid Permanently out from t20 : Sharjeel,Malik

Posted by ahsanjabbar on (March 17, 2014, 18:22 GMT)

S. Tanvir, S.Malik, K.Akmal are a sign of Pakistan heading into disaster. The trio will be the reason for Pakistan's disaster in the T20-WC. if Pak wants to do well keep the trio out of the squad not just the playing 11.

Posted by rawjns on (March 17, 2014, 15:38 GMT)

my team would be 1 Sharjeel/Kamran 2 Shehzad 3 Hafeez 4 Maqsood 5 Afridi 6 Umer 7 Bilawal 8 Anwer/Zulfiqar 9 Gul 10 Tanvir 11 Ajmal ...

No place for Malik ... bhatti is much better ...

we have enough batsmen to hit the ball out of the ground ...and having few allrounders will help if they collapsed ... afridi hafeez and ajmal can contain in their quota of 12 overs with only 8 remaining to bowl between 4 bowlers ... even gul and tanvir can hit a six once in a year...

Posted by tiple_H on (March 17, 2014, 9:08 GMT)

i think this is d only format pakistan cricket love to play current scenario but wen it comes to ICC event pakistan dream will be shattered

Posted by   on (March 17, 2014, 8:41 GMT)

My playing XI for Pakistan are Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Afridi, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Anwar Ali/Sohail Tanveer, Umer Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid

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