Pakistan are on a roll. They have won their last 11 One-day Internationals. Now they are hopeful of continuing the momentum in the Kitply Cup tri-series beginning in Dhaka on Sunday, first up against hosts Bangladesh.
The third team in the competition, India, handed them their last defeat, the series-clincher at Gwalior last November after which Pakistan won the inconsequential fifth ODI at Jaipur to begin their victorious run, slaying Zimbabwe and Bangladesh 5-0 each at home.
Their opponents may have been two lesser-known teams but victories behind their backs coming into a new tournament will always benefit. So too for India, who defeated World Champions Australia in the Commonwealth Bank tri-series finals to win the title for the first ever time early this year.
Pakistan arrived in Dhaka to a wet reception on Friday afternoon and had a practice session in the evening, whatever little they could when the rains relented. A heavy downpour has been the order of the last few days and is threatening to play spoilsport in the eight-day tournament, each of the four matches including the final having a reserve day.
Coming in Dhaka a week after the Indian Premier League (IPL), the teams are raring to go.
Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson said that modifying T20 skills into 50-50 ones should not be difficult.
“My players are professionals and they will surely get adjusted to different formats,” Lawson said. “They have to concentrate on what is at hand. We need to take the skills and experience of our players in T20 and transform them in the 50-50 format. It is not easy but we have a strong team and there is depth in both batting and bowling.”
Skipper Shoaib Malik thought otherwise. “IPL is now history, but it was a good tournament. We have an important tournament coming up now. We want to continue our winning spirit and momentum. Our target is to maintain the consistency. We have won eleven games in a row. We want to continue that success. Everyone is fit and we are looking forward to a good tournament.”
Pakistan had a one-day camp in Karachi before landing here. But the absence of Mohammad Asif, detained in Dubai for possessing a banned substance, has crippled the bowling attack, no doubt.
“Still, we have a decent bowling attack in Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir and Bazid Khan. They have been working hard,” Malik said.
Lawson did his best not to worry about Asif and carry on with the available talent.
“After an injury in November-December, Asif had worked incredibly hard to get back to his form and played the last game against Bangladesh and played in the IPL tournament,” he said. “I’d say that he is a very destructive bowler. In the meantime, some young players like Tanvir and Riaz have come through. Tanvir has proved himself well as the highest wicket taker in the IPL tournament. “
Meanwhile, India have suffered a blow even before the start of the series with pacer S Sreesanth rendered doubtful due to a side strain he picked up in the IPL.
“Sreesanth is in Bangalore at present … to see the medical team at the National Cricket Academy. At present, he looks doubtful for the Bangladesh tour. His availability for the Bangladesh tour will be decided after his assessment at the NCA,” BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah said in a statement on Friday.
The Kerala seamer was scheduled to join the Indian for departure on Saturday.