Asia Cup: Pakistan, Bangladesh lock horns for final ticket in UAE
Stakes are high as the Asia Cup 2018 caravan returns to Abu Dhabi. The winner of Pakistan and Bangladesh game will meet India in the final on Friday. And Wednesday's encounter at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium will be all about handling pressure. It's time for heroes to be created and chokers go out as there's no second chance.
Pakistan and Bangladesh have had a similar trajectory so far. They started off with massive wins, lost against India and managed a virtual semifinal clash courtesy a narrow victory over valiant Afghanistan. Both teams are highly dependent on their bowling attack. Both have issues in their batting department with inconsistent top-order, especially openers failing to form partnership. Both have been time and again rescued by individual brilliances like the innings by Shoaib Malik for Pakistan and last-over spell of Mustafizur Rahman for Bangladesh.
Even as Pakistan remain favourites, they are under tremendous pressure. Twin loses to India has devastated the team's morale. And a loss against Bangladesh will add salt to injury. With a fairly young side, it's time for Malik, the most experienced cap, and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed to orchestrate proceedings.
Shoaib pointed out individuals need to improve and fulfil the responsibilities. "If we perform well, we sit back. We have that culture in our country and that's what our management is trying to change. You can't promise anybody that you will score a hundred or take five wickets but your goal is to go out there and give your best shot on a consistent basis."
Shoaib reiterated that youngsters should be taken into confidence and it was the only way to evolve as a team. "When you have senior players in the dressing room, their responsibility isn't just to perform but also to groom the youngsters also. We are in a building process. This is not the time to panic and make changes in the team. We should take note of how Indian team and system develops a player."
He said the team will be back to winning ways soon. "We are going through tough times. We lost two games to India. We have areas to improve. Our management, selection committee, board and captain are backing all the players. You will see success very soon."
Shoaib, however, didn't buy the tags of 'favourites' or 'underdog' and said: "It depends on that particular day, if your 2-3 bowlers and batsmen do well, you end up on the winning side. We have played much cricket here and have all the combinations in our team." He noted that there was need for execution of plans and on the day whoever is in good form should take the lead. "We need stability in our batting. We just need to play according to the situation. We do have lack of experience but players have lot of talent."
He said Pakistan have the best bowling attack and backed pacer Muhammad Aamir to come good. "We have variety in our bowling. It is just that we need to execute our plans. We have so many youngsters in our team. The more they play, the more they will improve."
Both teams are set. And despite the burning weather conditions, there will be no holding back in the quest for glory. The atmosphere will be electrifying and the 12th man, in supporters, will play a crucial role.