ISLAMABAD: Pakistani cricket experts said on Wednesday India and Pakistan were equally capable of benefiting from the conditions in the United Arab Emirates and the team that handled pressure well was likely to win the Twenty20 World Cup opener at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
The Men in Green are familiar with UAE pitches after playing several matches in the Gulf state since 2009, when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by militants in Lahore.
As international cricket went on a decline in Pakistan, the country’s cricket board hosted multiple series in the UAE and even launched its biggest Pakistan Super League tournament in the Gulf state.
Pakistan’s cricket squad ranks number three in T20 cricket and has previously grabbed the world title in the shortest format of the game. It has also won the last ten T20s in the UAE, which makes its players, including skipper Babar Azam, confident of success.
However, former cricketers and independent experts say the Pakistani side will need to be aggressively in order to win the game.
“While you are playing, you get opportunities and a stronger team benefit from them,” Javed Miandad, a former Pakistani cricketing legend, told Arab News.
“Pakistan has a good team that can perform well, but our players will have to learn to take pressure without losing their nerves. In such matches, especially during crunch moments, you have to take your team to the end.”
He recalled his own historic six in the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in 1986 that earned his side victory over India on the last ball of the match.
Miandad maintained that UAE pitches could “equally support India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” adding that the final outcome would be determined by how these teams were going to utilize the available conditions.
Salman Butt, former left-handed opener and skipper, agreed with Miandad.
“It’s the same for all Asian teams,” he said. “We are all accustomed to these conditions. Pakistan may have played more cricket than other nations in the UAE, but several international cricketers have recently played the IPL [Indian Premier League] here and will come prepared.”
Sports journalist Aalia Rasheed said it was premature to say anything about the outcome of the match since “we do not have the exact idea of what kind of pitches the Pakistani team is likely to get.”
“Keeping in view the general UAE conditions, however, Pakistan and India can both benefit,” she continued. “These pitches are not offering turn. They are slow pitches where a grafter would be more successful. We cannot ignore the importance of power hitters, but a timer and a player who plays more on the ground and creates gaps can build an innings.”
She acknowledged that Pakistan had some good batsmen like Babar, Rizwan, Hafeez and Malik, but maintained that it was all about handling pressure during the game.
“They have a huge experience of playing in the UAE,” she said of the Pakistani players. “Yet, the magnitude of the World Cup is so big that it is not about the conditions but mental pressure. Whichever team manages to absorb that pressure on a given day will win.”
Kamran Akmal, a test cricketer, said Pakistan had an advantage on other teams.
“The pitches and general conditions should certainly benefit Pakistan,” he said. “Our team has played a great deal of international cricket in the UAE, though we will have to see how it begins to play from the first match.”
Akmal said spinners, such as Shadab Khan, were likely to take wickets for Pakistan.
“Pakistan certainly has an edge over others,” he continued. “Several Pakistan players have launched their professional career from the UEA. I believe that better planning and an aggressive game can help Pakistan win.”