DHAKA: “We all play together a lot, we’re good friends,” said Amjad Javed, the UAE captain, about the Pakistan players the day before its Asia Cup 2016 fixture, to be played in Mirpur on Monday.
If cricket diplomacy had been the flavour of the season, one of the Pakistani players might well have said something similar about the team from the UAE, which has been Pakistan’s adopted home for a while now.
Instead, Shoaib Malik said: “Even two real brothers, when they play against each other, they want to win. It’s the same with us.” The loss against India in its opening game has clearly hurt Pakistan, and it wants to get up and get cracking at the earliest, starting with UAE.
Since qualifying for this level in 2014, UAE has played three Twenty20 Internationals against Test-playing nations, two of them in this tournament and one against Zimbabwe earlier.
To its credit, UAE have gone about it manfully, bowling well and showing good spirit on the field. Sri Lanka was restricted to 129 for 8 and Bangladesh for a similar 133 for 8.
Amjad himself, Mohammad Naveed and Ahmed Raza have been the stars, the first two picking up wickets and the left-arm spinner keeping things very quiet – he has given away just 14 and 17 runs from his four overs in the two matches so far.
With the bat, however, UAE has fallen behind. “We are doing our best, and we can fix our batting problems, but it will take time. We need more experience against the main teams,” said Amjad.
For its part, Pakistan was taken by surprise at the way the pitch played on Saturday, Malik said.
Pakistan slipped and slid to 83 against India, Sarfraz Ahmed’s 24-ball 25 the only innings of substance. Mohammad Amir put in a fantastic spell at the top of India's innings to keep Pakistan in the game, but only just.
“We made some mistakes. We didn’t know what the conditions here would be. Now we have played, now we know how to deal with it,” said Malik on the sidelines of the Pakistan team’s training session on the afternoon before the match.
“We had miscalculated. It wasn’t a typical T20 wicket where you look at 170 or 180. We know we have the best attack among all teams. But the batsmen have to take responsibility. Whoever gets in has to score 60-70, so the team ends up scoring 140-150, which the bowlers can defend.
“We should have scored 130. We had two run outs. Otherwise one of them might have gone on to score 40-50. Here, 130-plus is a great score, unless the conditions change.”
It’s unlikely that Pakistan will be worrying too much about its bowling.
Amir, as well as Mohammad Sami, bowled extremely well against India, while Mohammad Irfan troubled India's batsmen. Wahab Riaz did, however, have an average day, but it could well have been an aberration.
Like with UAE, it’s the batting that Pakistan has to address. And fast. Both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already beaten UAE and India could too, going by form.
So winning today is non-negotiable for Pakistan. But the idea must be put up a big performance – with the ball, of course; even more so with the bat. — ICC