DHAKA: Pakistan aim to keep up momentum from their strong T20 World Cup showing with a largely unchanged squad for this week’s tour of Bangladesh, skipper Babar Azam said on Thursday.
Babar’s side stormed through the Super-12 phase of the Dubai tournament with five straight victories before a shock five-wicket loss to eventual winners Australia in the semi-final.
Pakistan fielded the same line-up in all six of their World Cup matches and have retained almost the same squad for the Bangladesh series, which starts with Friday’s Twenty20 showdown in Dhaka.
“Momentum always matters in cricket and we would like to carry that momentum,” Babar told reporters ahead of the game.
Mohammad Hafeez is the only player not to make the Bangladesh-bound flight after opting out of the squad, with Iftikhar Ahmed brought on as his replacement.
Bangladesh are missing several senior players who have been ruled out due to injury or rested after a disastrous World Cup campaign, where they failed to win a single Super-12 match.
But Babar said his side were wary of dropping their guard just because Bangladesh have a new squad and are coming off a poor World Cup.
Babar cited Bangladesh’s series wins over Australia (4-1) in August and New Zealand (3-2) in September; both were the finalists at the T20 World Cup.
He said Bangladesh at home can beat any team.
“Bangladesh is not an easy opponent, especially in their home conditions. They have shown recently what they are capable of,” he said.
“They are missing some players, but the ones who are here all played in the BPL [Bangladesh Premier League] and are capable of doing something very good.”
Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad said his side were looking to start afresh and put the Dubai debacle behind them.
Bangladesh are still digesting the bitter taste of a forgettable T20 World Cup campaign, and Mahmdullah is glad for Pakistan’s visit to start making better memories.
“What happened in the World Cup is now past and, really, I don’t want to talk about that,” Mahmudullah said on Thursday. “If we keep talking about the World Cup, it will have a negative impact on our performance.
“This series is an opportunity for us to show our ability. Yes, it will be a challenging series given Pakistan is one of the best teams in the world but I believe if we can start well, well stand a good chance.”
Bangladesh reacted to the T20 World Cup disappointment with sweeping changes to the squad, calling up six players including four newcomers.
Bangladesh also lost to injuries their best player, Shakib Al Hasan, allrounder Saifuddin, and experienced opener Tamim Iqbal.
“There is no pressure,” Mamudullah insisted. “No matter what the strength of the team is, I believe it’s the best team on the day who wins in T20 cricket.”
For a good start, Mahmudullah believes it is imperative to deal with Pakistan left-hand pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who has made a habit of taking wickets in the first powerplay.
“He is one of the best in the business with the new ball in this format. We have a plan up our sleeves for him,” he said without elaborating.
The second and third Twenty20 internationals will be held on November 20 and 22 in Dhaka.
Both are day-night games, with fans returning to the stands in Bangladesh for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic shut stadiums to crowds in March 2020.
Pakistan will also play two Test matches during their tour.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021