Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi candidly confessed his team made more mistakes in their defeat against arch-rivals and now look to make better decisions in their crunch must-win game at Mohali with a tactical and defeat-less New Zealand on Tuesday.
Pakistan opened up the World Twenty20 well with a comprehensive 55-run win but then fumbled on and off the field to lose to arch-rivals India by six wickets, leaving their progress in the event hanging in balance.
Their problems will be compounded by a pitch which has nothing but grass on it and described by New Zealand coach Mike Hesson as “closer to pitches in New Zealand.”
New Zealand have won both their games against hosts and title favourites India and Australia, having read the pitches wisely and selecting their final eleven immaculately. Hesson and Co left out key pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee at Nagpur to give India a dose of their own medicine on a spinning track. They then used their seamers (again leaving Boult and Southee) on a livelier pitch in Dharamsala to outsmart old rivals and neighbours Australia.
Both Afridi and Hesson stressed the importance of reading the pitch well.
“We committed more mistakes than India,” confessed a frank Afridi. “We did mistake in reading the pitch at Kolkata but the pitch in Mohali is always good.”
Afridi disagreed with Hesson.
“I don’t agree with him that it will give NZ more favours,” said Pakistan captain. “We know this pitch and I am sure it will favour both the teams but the key will be make less mistakes.”
Pakistan’s build-up for the match was again marred by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan’s statement on Monday in which he demanded the nation not to expect much from the team.
Afridi said he and his team were not reading newspaper, nor on twitter and facebook comments.
“There was a lot said about our chances even before the tournament started, so we are not reading newspaper, don’t know what is being said and nor we are reading tweets and Facebook comments.
“Our focus is on playing cricket and the boys are hungry for a win. We know New Zealand pose different challenges than a sub continent team so we have to be at our best. There is no panic nor we want any so we will put our best and leave the rest on Almighty.”
Hesson was more confident and backed his players to do well, without thinking too far ahead.
“We certainly are not thinking about the knockouts yet. Appreciate that though. We will look up that pitch tomorrow, the pitch will covered overnight and will dry up a bit. We will pick a side that suits the conditions and the opposition, but won’t be thinking too far ahead,” said Hesson.
Despite the conditions and country different, New Zealand will also have the advantage and confidence of beating Pakistan in a Twenty20 series 2-1 as recently as in January this year.
“It (having beaten Pakistan) helps both sides because we know each other pretty well. Obviously we played those games in New Zealand conditions. Mohali is probably more like New Zealand conditions than perhaps Nagpur and Dharamsala.
“Pakistan definitely serve a different challenge with the pace bowlers they have. Their bowling attack is completely different from that we had faced in the last two games.”
If the grass remains as dominant on the pitch as on Monday, Pakistan will have to resist the temptation of bringing in left-arm spinner Imad Wasim in the squad. They can though temper with the batting, having totally disarranging their batting order, with in-form Mohammad Hafeez coming as low as seven in the last game.
New Zealand have a settled squad and with so much grass on the pitch they will be tempted to bring in both their spearheads Tim Southee and Trent Boult — both yet to make an appearance in the event.
New Zealand’s win will make them the first team to reach the semis but a Pakistan win will throw the race for last four open.