Bat first. One of the top-three should play long. And, carry at least three wicket-taking bowlers in your playing XI.
That’s the strategy veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik has put forth for Pakistan to succeed in the Asia Cup, which begins from September 15.
It has been over a decade now since Pakistan have been playing ‘home’ series in the UAE in the aftermath of an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore, which naturally makes them the side with the best ‘local knowledge’ of the conditions.
They might have a phenomenal Test record in their adopted home, but, their one-day record in Dubai and Abu Dhabi – the venues for the six-team tournament – is abysmal. They have won only 17 out of the total of 40 matches played at those venues.
“We have thoroughly dominated in Test cricket in the UAE. But, ODI cricket becomes difficult for us,” the all-rounder said. “It is easy to bat under sun as compared to batting under lights there which is why our ODI graph is on the lower side. I am not abstaining us of our faults… we are trying to work on them.
“I feel the 50-over cricket now is also like T20. The batsmen try to take the potential that they have gained from the first ball to the end. No team can be taken lightly. There should be at least three wicket-taking bowlers who can strike in the middle-overs too. In high-scoring games, one of the top-three batsmen should be able to score big and the rest of the batsmen can build the innings around him. Our top-three batsmen are in top form now.”
Pakistan’s Asia Cup campaign begins on the second day of the tournament when they face Hong Kong, but it is their match against India on September 19 that is the most anticipated. Due to the tensions between the two neighbours, India and Pakistan, have played only a brief bilateral series in last 10 years. So, naturally, there’s a great zeal when the two sides meet.
“For me it is just another game,” he said while speaking about the contest. Thinking about taking on India one creates a lot of pressure. So, I would suggest my teammates to take this as just another game. But, there’s one thing, that this match is followed by the Indians and the Pakistanis all over the world with great zeal. Even the people from other nationalities follow it too.
“This provides a great opportunity [to perform] due to the massive following and become a star. At the same time, it puts a lot of pressure on you which keeps a player from expressing himself to his full potential.”
Malik is one of those rare players – currently – who featured regularly in the Indo-Pak contests. He has played India in 39 ODIs and averages 47.45. His highest career score 143 also came against them.
Malik’s fellow Pakistan veteran Mohammad Hafeez meanwhile, had reportedly decided to conduct a press conference to state his reservations regarding the team management’s treatment of senior players following his axing for the multi-team event. He later backed out from such an endeavour and sent a letter to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani instead, expressing his grievances.