Coming into the T20 World Cup, Pakistan were considered one of the favourites because of their familiarity with the pitches and conditions in the Middle East. That combined with their T20I form has certainly now made them top dogs in the group that has giants in the form of India and New Zealand.
Pakistan have got off to a blazing start, with two wins in two games, and they could make it three wins when they face Afghanistan on Friday in a crucial contest that could go on to decide the top-two standings of the group. Pakistan’s head coach Saqlain Mushtaq stated that Afghanistan’s ‘fearless’ brand of cricket could certainly pose as a big danger for teams, including his own side.
"It's (Afghanistan) a strong unit. We can't really say that it's very easy and you will roll over them. It's not like that. They have a wonderful bowling attack, especially the spinners. When they bat, they just play, the way they feel it, what's in their heart, what they think. They just go and execute the plan. They just play a sort of fearless cricket and I think that kind of team can be dangerous,” Saqlain said on the eve of their clash against Afghanistan.
"They've been doing really well in different leagues and they are quite confident to do their business on their day. They are very good but obviously we should play and we should execute our plan with the clarity of the mind,” he added of Afghanistan spinners.
The former spinner also insisted that his side won’t let down the intensity and would play this clash against Afghanistan in the same manner as they do against all teams in the competition.
"But you play for your pride and you don't think that this is a small team and this is a big team. Otherwise your mind will start thinking in that way. So in the World Cup, it's a mega win. You play all the teams with the same intensity, with the same attitude, with the same sort of mindset and you execute your plan the way you execute the plan against the bigger-name team."
With there being a real possibility of Pakistan facing India in the final of the T20 World Cup, Mushtaq said that it would be a great thing for world cricket and ICC, with the clash often being a crowd-winner. He also added that playing an extra clash against India would boost the relations between the two countries, who in the recent past have been reduced to just international events.
"If India makes it to the final with us, it would be a great thing because I feel -- and this is not because we became big-headed after beating them -- but because they are a strong team, everyone considers them a favourite. England and Australia always play tough cricket too."
"What we have in hand is our process, how we plan, our commitment, how we fight and bounce back and things we can control so we don't focus on results and the opponent. If India comes in the final, then it would be very good for the ICC, fans around the world and for world cricket -- everyone will enjoy it. They are our neighbouring country and playing one more match would only improve our relations."