Afridi's form a boost, says Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez has said that Shahid Afridi's blows that won Pakistan an Asia Cup thriller against India earlier this month in Mirpur have boosted the side's morale ahead of their World T20 opener against their archrivals. Afridi is expected to play a significant role in the tournament despite not being fully fit, as Hafeez admitted. Afridi joined the squad late, taking time to recover from a hip strain.
"He is in good form and we have seen that in the Asia Cup," Hafeez said of Afridi. "It is a good sign for us because we always wanted him to bat lower down the order and finish the game well for Pakistan, and it is always great to know that he is in form, and in a good frame of mind. It is always great when your senior players are looking forward to challenges. The way the momentum has shifted, it is a boost for our morale. I hope he repeats his heroics and pleases Pakistani fans again.
"Afridi's fitness has improved quite a bit. He has made himself available for everything. This is a good sign. He's not 100% still but he's ready and fit to play this tournament. He is eager to put in a good performance."
Hafeez was also pleased with Umar Gul's returns in the practice game against New Zealand, where the fast bowler took 3 for 16 from four overs.
"Umar Gul is working very hard. After the Asia Cup, where he did not do too well, he has picked up and performed well in the practice matches. That is all you want from your players. All they can do is work hard. Form can go up and down, but if they are willing to work hard it sends the right signal to the team. That is exactly what Gul has done."
Pakistan also have the services of a few allrounders, including Hafeez, and MS Dhoni said sides that could call upon such multi-skilled players were "blessed". Hafeez seconded the sentiment.
"As far as the all-rounder edge is concerned, yes, we do believe we have a good allrounders in the group. We have Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, myself, Kamran Akmal as wicketkeeper-batsman, so we are blessed to have players like that in the team and hopefully that will help us."
Hafeez was not too perturbed by Pakistan's winless record against India in World Cups and World T20s and he believed their collapse in the second warm-up against South Africa, where they were dismissed for 71, was unlikely to affect them too much in the tournament.
"It's not that every day has to be great," he said. "Some days are good and some bad. We have good batsmen in our team. In the second practice match, our objective was to give a few people time in the middle. We achieved that."
While Hafeez acknowledged the build-up of an India-Pakistan game among fans, he cautioned that it was only one of several games that Pakistan would have to play in the tournament.
"It is always great to know the expectations of the people and the fans around the world. We are not considering only one game at the time," he said. "Yes, an India-Pakistan game is always important but this is not the whole tournament and we want to give a good show in the whole tournament. The first game is always important as you want to do well in that game so that you can get the momentum right. We are looking forward to this and hopefully the boys will do well to get the best results for Pakistan."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo