Pakistan will for the first time start as underdogs against Bangladesh as both teams seek a winning start in their first World Twenty20 match at Eden gardens in Kolkatta on Wednesday.
Pakistan, the 2009 World Twenty20 champions, have been on the slump since last year’s tour to a country which was once their second province.
Both the teams, placed in the group of death, will hope of a winning start as their next three opponents are more formidable in hosts India, Australia and New Zealand.
Pakistan also went down narrowly against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup earlier this month and Waqar was quick to accept the fact that his team is facing a fast-improving opponents.
“Yes, this is a fact that Bangladesh have improved in the last one and a half year so we have a fight at hand but my team is also going to play hard cricket and targets a winning start,” said Waqar after en extensive team training at the Eden gardens.
Missing in the training was skipper Shahid Afridi who suffered fever after team’s pool session but Waqar was confident the misfiring allrounder will get better — both from fever and in performance.
“He missed training as a precaution but he will recover, said Waqar. “He is just one innings away from getting to his best.”
And Pakistan would like Afridi to fire. He managed just two runs in the recent Asia Cup and took just two wickets and Waqar admitted the Pakistan captain will like to bow out of international stage on a high.
“He is very determined and wants to go on a high. He is our key player so we hope that he will do well.”
Pakistan head coach announced he will play with three fast bowlers in Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan with left-arm spinner Imad Wasim taking four wickets in the 15-run warm-up match win over Sri Lanka on Monday the fourth bowling slot is assured.
Pacer Mohammad Sami was ruled out with a foot injury.
Pakistan will also hope the form of their openers — with Ahmed Shehzad back after being dropped for the Asia Cup — and Sharjeel Khan give them a good start, especially in the batting power play where they have the worst average amongst all the top ten teams.
Bangladesh will hope their fast rising rookie paceman Mustafizur Rehman gets fully fit from a side staring which forced him to miss the Asia Cup while another promising fast bowler Taskin Ahmed gets over from his bowling action reported last week.
“Taskin had his test in the morning. He will join us by 7 or 8pm. Mustafizur is feeling better but a lot will depend on him,” said Mortaza whose full team will be playing at Eden gardens — the Indian side of Bengal — for the first time.
“I think this is a good opportunity to play in this ground. I don’t know if 90,000 people (now the reduced capacity is 66,000) will turn up for tomorrow’s game but we are excited to be playing here and we want to make it memorable for us. As a Bengali, I can hope that Kolkata will be behind us.”
Mortaza said there are no favourites in the Twenty20 format.
“I think in T20 format you have to start from zero in every game. The track record won’t really help us. What would matter is how we start with bat and ball tomorrow.
“We are trying to take our best preparation. We want to win and play good cricket. There are no favourites in T20 cricket. If you look at history, Pakistan are one of the best sides in this format. But having said that, if we play to our potential, it will be good for us.
Pakistan: 1 Sharjeel Khan, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Mohammad Amir 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Bangladesh: 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mohammad Mithun, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Al-Amin Hossain, 10 Mustafizur Rahman/Abu Hider, 11 Taskin Ahmed