Friday, April 30, 2010

Pakistan look to restore pride against Bangladesh

GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia (AFP) – Pakistan will look to bounce back from an embarrassing warm-up loss to Zimbabwe when they begin the defence of their World Twenty20 title against Bangladesh here on Saturday.

It says much about what has happened to Pakistan cricket in the intervening months since they beat Sri Lanka in the 2009 World Twenty20 final at Lord's that a defeat by Bangladesh this weekend is not unthinkable.

Against Zimbabwe, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq managed just nine runs between them.

Failing in a warm-up match is no barrier to the duo coming good when it matters most, but Pakistan have lost the steadying influence of Younus Khan, their captain at last year's World Twenty20: he was one of several players punished after the team's poor tours of Australia, New Zealand and the UAE.

In his case, it was an indefinite ban.

The fall-out has meant they have come to the Caribbean without Shoaib Malik, newly married to Indian tennis pin-up Sania Mirza, and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, both banned for a year.

The net effect has been to up the expectations on Afridi and Razzaq.

Leg-spinner Afridi did at least take four wickets against Zimbabwe and few bowlers can match his ability to cause batting collapses in this format.

And Pakistan great Wasim Akram, speaking before Thursday's match, was adamant Afridi was the right man to lead the side in this type of cricket.

"You need someone like Afridi as captain in Twenty20 cricket. He has aggression needed in a leader and in a short Twenty20 match he will always sparkle," said Wasim, a member of Pakistan's 50-over World Cup winning team in 1992.

For all Pakistan's problems, the odds are still against Bangladesh who won just three matches -- against Kenya, Zimbabwe and the West Indies -- out of their 14 T20 internationals in 2006 and 2007.

In their seven matches at the two previous World Twenty20 events, the Tigers have won just one match: against the West Indies.

A seven-wicket loss to England in a warm-up in Barbados on Wednesday did little for Bangladesh's hopes of beating either Pakistan or Australia and so qualifying for the second round.

But Bangladesh once beat Australia in a one-day international in Cardiff and if the likes of captain Shakib Al Hasan or Mohammad Ashraful come good with the bat, another shock could be in sight.