x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hafeez optimistic for Pakistan's World Twenty20 challenge

The Pakistan captain encouraged by form in the series against Australia.

Mohammad Hafeez is pleased with Pakistan's prospects for the World Twenty20.
Mohammad Hafeez is pleased with Pakistan's prospects for the World Twenty20.

DUBAI // Pakistan's Twenty20 series triumph over Australia - clinched with tonight's game in Dubai still to come - could not have come at a better time.

Heading into the World T20, which begins in just over a week's time in Sri Lanka, Pakistan put together their most coherent performances in the format in nearly 18 months.

Traditionally a heavyweight in the shortest form of the game, Pakistan have gone through an indifferent patch since losing to Australia in an epic World T20 semi-final in the Caribbean in May 2010.

Until that match, they had made the final of the first World T20 in 2007 and won the next, in 2009. And in 35 T20s, had won an impressive 24.

But that loss damaged Pakistan perhaps more deeply than they imagined at the time. Since then, in 21 games, they have won and lost 10 (the Super Over win against Australia on Friday night counts in the records as a tie), including a six-game losing streak during the second half of 2010.

The batting is the obvious scapegoat, unsure in personnel, order and intent; their total of 151 on Friday was only the fifth time they crossed 150 since the last World T20.

Changes in leadership have not helped; men as different as Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq and now Mohammad Hafeez have tried to impose a sense of structure and identity on the side.

Hafeez has been in charge for four T20s, three of which have been won and will be the man to lead Pakistan's campaign in Sri Lanka.

Expectations have suddenly been raised by the Australia result, but Hafeez has been around long enough to know expectations are always to be played down.

"The last year, or the last 15-18 months our T20 record has not been that good," Hafeez told The National in an interview ahead of the final Twenty20.

"But from this side, I have a lot of hope. They're very talented and what was needed was to get them together, to mould them in to a unit, give them confidence. The board chairman has played a role in that as well as the team management and coaches.

"I don't want to raise expectations in any way or say that we'll do this or that. But I think people have seen in these two games the talent this team has. I want the guys to play with the right attitude and effort, to play positively.

"On this journey that we've all begun the captain alone is nothing, and I hope that the guys can play their roles."

On paper, at least, some oomph has been added to the batting with the returns of Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir and Abdul Razzaq and the addition of Nasir Jamshed. Raza Hasan's emergence as another spinning option and the return of a refreshed Umar Gul has added further zing to an already formidable attack.

"My aim as captain is to ensure that all players have a comfort level, that they have that confidence from me," Hafeez said. "This selection committee has supported me and we've brought in guys like Razzaq and Jamshed, Kamran.

"The players know the captain has confidence in them.

"I'm not saying it's because of me but what I want to do is keep giving them all the confidence they require, as far as their selection is concerned and their game is concerned.

"You can see the guys are hungry to perform and that is especially pleasing for me as a captain."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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