So the real battle begins. Having shrugged aside the minnows, all the seeds are now in action in the Super Eights which got off to a sensational start with hosts Sri Lanka prevailing over New Zealand in the Super Over at Pallekele on Thursday.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have moved camp from hilly Kandy to the capital Colombo. Having won both their pool games, Pakistan should be brimming with confidence as they meet South Africa in their first Super Eights match at Premadasa on Friday (today).
It is going to be Pakistan’s toughest test yet. The Proteas are easily one of the best teams in the World Twenty20 with several solid batters and a top-class bowling arsenal. Pakistan did well to tame New Zealand and Bangladesh but they would have to raise their game to a higher level to prevail over the South Africans. Hafeez and his men shouldn’t ignore the fact that in spite of achieving a cent percent record in the first round, Pakistan are yet to really give their best in this tournament. Both New Zealand and Bangladesh squandered the chances that came their way, allowing Pakistan to walk away with full victory points. But South Africa are a different side altogether. Unlike their rivals for Friday’s match, sloppiness is not a word in the South African dictionary.
Pakistan are the only team that has reached the last four in all three World Twenty20 editions. They have the firepower to go make it four in a row even though they face three tough hurdles in their bid to make the cut for the semifinals. Pakistan’s second game is against old rivals India on Sunday followed by another potentially explosive clash against Australia. To finish among the top two from this group won’t be easy.
Pakistan would be relying heavily on their spinners to tame the Proteas. The trio of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez seem set to shine on a spin-friendly Premadasa wicket.
The temptation for Pakistan would be to retain the ‘winning combination’ but there could be a change or two considering the fact that the conditions would be quite different in Colombo. Personally, I believe that they should have brought in Abdul Razzaq in place of the misfiring Sohail Tanvir at Pallekele. At Premadasa, Pakistan might not want to go with three seamers which makes Razzaq’s inclusion in the first eleven even more unlikely.
There has to be a reason why Razzaq was recalled for the World Twenty20 after being discarded as spent force after World Cup 2011. Perhaps it’s his vast experience or the fact that he has been a match-winner for Pakistan during his heyday.
Whatever the reason, it’s quite obvious that the national selectors and Pakistan management believed that the allrounder was good enough to be in the squad ahead of several fitter and younger options like Junaid Khan and Hammad Azam. The thing is when you recall a senior player like Razzaq, you only do that if you think that he is going to make the cut for the playing eleven. Otherwise, it’s better to have somebody younger in the squad as an understudy, who can learn from his seniors even if he fails to be a part of the playing eleven. Including Razzaq in the touring party and then confining him to the bench underlines the fact that there is something wrong with our planning.