Pakistan have grown stronger from final defeat- Alam
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam believes his team is now mentally equipped to handle any sort of situation and has grown stronger from the disappointment suffered two years ago in the inaugural World Twenty20 final, which they lost to arch-rivals India by just five runs.
"I was commentating when we lost and it was very disappointing," Alam said after the team's training session on Tuesday evening, ahead of the warm-up game against India at The Oval, which will be their final practice fixture before the tournament proper begins on Friday.
Alam hopes the players involved in that pulsating final two years ago, played in front of a sellout crowd at the Wanderers, have learnt from that episode and moved on. Back then Pakistan needed 54 from 24 balls with only three wickets in hand but Misbah-ul-Haq almost turned the game on its head with some sumptuous strokeplay. 13 were needed off the final over and Misbah punished the inexperienced Joginder Sharma with a huge six to an easy full toss. But on the third ball, trying to scoop it over fine leg, he miscued and was caught by Sreesanth.
"I'm sure the boys and Misbah have got over what happened in the final two years ago. And after two years we are now more mentally prepared to handle such a situation," Alam said.
Alam is also not worried by the fact that none of the Pakistan players featured in the second IPL, as they were barred by the PCB from playing the tournament in the wake of the tensions between India and Pakistan post 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. When the tournament was moved out of India - over security reasons - the Pakistan players were hopeful of returning but IPL officials said it wouldn't be possible as the squads had already been finalised earlier. "Our players not figuring in the IPL has no bearing in this tournament," Alam said.
Pakistan haven't played much cricket of late apart from the ODI series against Australia in the UAE. The rustiness of their players was pretty evident in Monday's practice game against South Africa, which Pakistan lost by 59 runs. Except for offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who bowled economically and opener Ahmed Shehzad, who made 31, none of the Pakistan players showed any sort of form. Alam admitted the players were still coming to terms with foreign conditions and there is no way out except to understand each player's responsibility. "We are still settling down. I wasn't really proud of our performance yesterday. It takes at least a week's preparation for a team to get attuned to the conditions but there is nothing to be worried about."
According to Alam, for Pakistan to become consistent the key is their senior players, starting with their captain Younis Khan, need to perform. "I'm expecting a great deal from Younis Khan. Then we have people like Salman Butt, Misbah, Shahid Afridi, who can hit the ball and are tailor-made for this kind of cricket."
Afridi, never shy of speaking his mind, said he would want to make the same impact like in the previous World Twenty20, where he was one of the top bowlers. "I was one of the best bowlers in the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup. I will do my best once again and I've been doing well with the ball in the last few years for Pakistan. As for the batting, I know people expect a lot from me and luckily I've had a few decent knocks against Australia recently."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo