'Need to work a lot on our batting' - Malik

Pakistan allrounder Shoaid Malik says the team's batting must improve and praised Virat Kohli for his match-winning fifty on a tricky pitch in Kolkata

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
After yet another loss to India at a world event, Pakistan allrounder Shoaib Malik highlighted the team's batting as the main area in need of improvement.
"Victory and defeat happen in the game. I think there are a few areas where we need to improve, especially our batting, even though it was a tough pitch to bat on," he said. "I think that we could have set a better target. There is another thing: we may have lost matches to other teams, not beaten them in World Cups, but when it comes to India, it just becomes bigger. But we must give credit to the Indian team for the way they played on a difficult pitch."
Pakistan won their opening game of the World T20 comprehensively and regained some confidence after a poor showing in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. They posted a mammoth 201 to set up a 55-run victory over Bangladesh at Eden Gardens. On Saturday, at the same venue, they huffed and puffed to 118 in 18 overs.
Malik said that the nature of the pitch, which began turning sharply from the second over onward, had taken both teams by surprise. He also indicated that losing the toss in a rain-curtailed game had further stacked the odds against Pakistan.
"If you compare the last wicket we played on and this one, we couldn't see much difference. In fact, this was looking a better wicket, but as I said that even Dhoni mentioned that even he didn't think the wicket would spin that much, but we can control these things," Malik said. "We couldn't win the toss so that was also… that is part of the game. These things are not in your hands, but there is one area we need to improve and that is our batting.
"Our total was not enough to defend against such a great batting line-up. We should give credit to Virat Kohli's innings. He was the only difference between the two teams. He backs his skills and that's the key. He reads the situation well. He knows how to play on any track, whether flat or tricky. That's why he's very consistent. You're the best coach of yourself. If you talk to yourself, you will have all the answers. As a batting unit we also need to do the same thing."
One of the tactical surprises during Pakistan's innings was Shahid Afridi elevating himself to No. 3 in the batting order, at the expense of Mohammad Hafeez, who batted at No. 7. Afridi consumed 14 balls to score eight runs. Hafeez came in with only ten balls left and scored a run-a-ball five. Malik explained the shuffle in the batting order came about as a result of Afridi slamming 49 off only 19 balls a few days ago against Bangladesh. Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan had also recommended Afridi moving up the order during a television appearance.
"T20 is a format in which everyone is flexible," Malik said. "Our opening pair had played a lot of overs and, given Afridi's previous innings, the way he played in the last match, we couldn't ignore that and the captain always leads from the front. He felt if he went in to bat at that time, we could score quickly because the wicket wasn't easy. That's why we took the decision we did."
Pakistan began their defence of 118 in earnest as Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Sami left India at 23 for 3. But a 61-run partnership between Kohli and Yuvraj Singh for the fourth wicket took the game away. Amir, who conceded just three runs in his first two overs, was taken off and brought back when the game was all but lost, in the 14th over.
"Yes we could have brought Amir back for a breakthrough, but if you look at it, Mohammad Sami had taken two wickets and there was a spinner at the other end because the ball was turning," Malik said. "And when a bowler gets a wicket, he gets his second over. For sure, our bowlers bowled well, but our total wasn't enough to defend against such a great batting line up.
"One of the things we could have done differently is that we could have played the sweep or the reverse sweep against the spinners. When the ball turns, then those shots are helpful and it hurts the spinner's line. Like against pace bowlers you go down the wicket and try to hit. I think that it's the same thing. [So] Batting is the one area that we need to work a lot on."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson