Fresh start for Indo-Pak cricket ties: Hafeez
It was in 2007 that the Pakistan national cricket team last set foot on Indian soil. It was also the last time that the cross-border arch rivals competed in a bilateral series. Five years hence, India is once again playing host to her neighbours for a cricketing contest. This is a special occasion for both teams and their fans.
Pakistan’s captain for the two Twenty20 International matches, Mohammad Hafeez, termed this series as a “fresh beginning of a new journey between two of the greatest cricketing nations”.
He hoped that this short series of two T20Is and three ODIs will act as the precursor to a full Test series between the two nations. “This is a good start and I hope the next time we play against each other, there will be Test matches included too.”
Like all Pakistani cricketers, he too harbours the dream of representing his country in front of his countrymen. “The new PCB chief, Zaka Ashraf, is trying hard to get cricket back in Pakistan,” Hafeez said.
“As a team we have been coping very well despite not getting the home advantage. We’re still bringing good results for Pakistan and we’re proud of that. We wish that cricket returns to Pakistan soon and the youngsters get a chance to play in front of their home crowd.
However, for now, Hafeez is glad that the youngsters in his team will get the first-hand experience of playing cricket in India.
“Every time you come to India there’s an immense challenge to do well. It’s a great chance for the youngsters to come here and feel the pressure, experience the big crowds here and perform well,” said the skipper.
Hafeez is himself delighted to be in India, a place where cricketers are adored and celebrated irrespective of their nationality.
“We always love to come to India, and every time we’re here, the love and affection of the people is always great. I believe it will be the same in this series as well,” he said.
Hafeez acknowledges the towering emotional value of this series but he also knows that it is just sport, after all. “We all know the importance of these games. The expectations from both teams are really high and we are aware of that. But we will concentrate on playing good cricket.
“I will try my best to lead the team without pressure and will try to convey the same message to my boys as well. We will try not to crumble under pressure and express ourselves as much as we can,” the skipper said.
Pakistan coach, Dav Whatmore, who has worked with other subcontinent teams like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh besides coaching the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, is excited to add a new experience to his prolific coaching career.
“This is special set of games for me. This is my first experience of being part of an India-Pakistan series,” he said. “We’ve played India in the ICC events, but this will be my first time in a bilateral series. It will be an experience that I’m looking forward to personally.”
Whatmore, who joined the Pakistan team in March 2012, said that his experience with them has been very similar to those with other players from this part of the world that he has coached. However, he aims to instil consistency in the mercurial Pakistani team.
“I have worked with boys in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and there’s not a lot of difference. The principles are pretty much the same; it’s just about the execution of skills in a very healthy environment.
“We have done that very well in the past and at times we haven’t done so well. What we need is a bit more consistency in our game. I just want the guys to put their best foot forward and enjoy the experience,” the coach said.