KOLKATA: The Pakistan team has reached Eden Gardens to play their opening match of the World Twenty20 against Bangladesh scheduled at 2:30 pm today.
With seemingly harder games against hosts India, New Zealand and Australia to follow, Pakistan knows that they cannot afford to stumble against Bangaldesh – one of the two qualifiers.
A year or two ago, Pakistan would have ran roughshod over the Tigers in a World T20 game but things are different now.
At the Asia Cup that preceded the World Twenty20, Bangladesh knocked Pakistan out of the tournament with a famous win in Dhaka.
On Tuesday, Pakistan carried out a high-intensity training session with skipper Shahid Afridi being the notable absentee.
There were fears that the all-rounder, who is suffering from fever, might be forced to miss the game.
However, a team official told ‘The News’ that after a good rest, followed by a session in the sauna, Afridi is fully fit and will lead the team against Bangladesh.
Fast bowler Mohammad Sami, however, will not be available for the game because he is yet to fully recover from an injury that he sustained in a training session on Monday.
“Sami is on the recovery curve but had still not recovered enough to take part in training today, and is unlikely to feature in the match against Bangladesh,” the team official said.
Agencies add: Pakistan will bank on the batting form of Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal but they would also desperately want their top three – Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez – to fire.
The bowling attack will rely largely on Mohammad Amir, though Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz will look to keep Bangladesh’s top-order quiet. Shahid Afridi, Malik and, perhaps, Imad Wasim – Pakistan’s spin attack – will have a tough battle against the middle-order.
Bangladesh would be worried about the formation of their bowling attack. Taskin Ahmed is set to play; Taskin and Arafat Sunny went to Chennai on March 14 to have their actions tested after they were reported last week. Mustafizur Rahman’s fitness, as a result, would be very important if Bangladesh are to field a strong bowling attack. The bowler will be assessed prior to the match on Wednesday. Mushfiqur Rahim’s batting form is another worry but so far Tamim Iqbal has spoken loudly with his bat with knocks of 83* and 103* in the qualifier stage.
Sabbir Rahman has been Bangladesh’s go-to batsman in the top-order in 2016 with 388 runs in 12 T20I innings at an average of 43.11, including two fifties. He can look to Tamim for lessons on building a T20 innings, as he has shown a tendency to throw it away after getting set.