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No favourites in Pakistan, India series: Hafeez

December 20, 2012

Mohammad Hafeez. -Photo by AFP

LAHORE: Declaring both Pakistan and India as well-balanced sides, Twenty20 captain Mohammad Hafeez on Thursday urged the touring bowlers to run through the Indian batting in the upcoming limited-overs series which he termed would be of high pressure with no team starting as clear favourites.

“Whenever there is a cricket contest between India and Pakistan it is all about pressure as people’s expectations on both the sides remain high. In the past, both the teams have given good performances [against each other] and any team can be declared as favourites for the forthcoming series,” Hafeez, 32, told media on the final day of the national training camp here at the Gaddafi Stadium.

The high-profile series is scheduled to start from Dec 22 with first of the two Twenty20 Internationals followed by three One-day Internationals.

“Though we have briefly discussed the strategy for the India tour, an in-depth talk on it will be held when the team management sits down to decide the tasks for different players. Therefore, at this moment I cannot announce the role of any player,” Hafeez said, while facing a volley of questions about the strategy against India.

“Each player’s primary target is to give their best against India to help Pakistan earn better result against them,” Hafeez added.

“In recent past, we have lost four successive matches to India and we should keep that in mind to stop the winless streak against them,” Hafeez stated.

To a question about Saeed Ajmal’s premier role, Hafeez endorsed One-day International captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s view that he would not rely only on one bowler as the entire bowling department, particularly the pace battery, should excel in India.

“It’s not fair putting pressure on Saeed by declaring him the lone match-winner before the start of the [India] series. It is a team game and I think against India our pace battery too have to play a significant role,” he emphasised. “Our pace bowlers used to pierce strong Indian batting line-ups to win matches for Pakistan and I want a similar kind of role from them in the upcoming series,” Hafeez maintained while noting, “the Indian batsmen are not good against a quality pace attack and our fast bowlers can utilise this handicap of the rivals.”

Claiming Pakistan’s pace attack — featuring Umar Gul, a fast-improving Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir, along with rookie Asad Ali — was not vulnerable, Hafeez lauded young Asad.

“Asad has earned his place [in the national side] after being declared the best bowler of the National Twenty20 Cup,” he said.Hafeez regarded veteran all-rounder Shahid Afridi striking form as a good omen for Pakistan.

“We have good spinners in Afridi and Saeed. And the good news is that Afridi is regaining form,” he said. “Afridi, who performed very well during the training camp [practice matches] after enduring a lean patch, is getting back his confidence which is a good sign for the team.”

To a question about legendary batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq’s presence at the camp as consultant, Hafeez revealed that the former captain had worked on improvement of the players’ mental approach, and not technical.

“We took full advantage of Inzamam’s presence at the camp. He shared with us his vast experience of playing against India,” he said.

Hafeez while highlighting that the India-bound T20 squad already had three openers — Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad and Hafeez himself — said though Afridi had done well in the past as opener, presently he felt himself more comfortable batting in lower middle-order.

Hafeez further said he was enjoying his T20 captaincy as every team member was giving him positive response.

“The boys are positive for this [India] tour. We gained much by playing two practice one-dayers during the camp. And now we are ready to give good results to the nation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hafeez said all-rounder Shoaib Malik had returned to the camp after having a two-day break with the permission of the team management. “His presence will be a source of inspiration for the players because he is an experienced player.”