ISLAMABAD (AP) — Five things to know about the Pakistan team to play at the World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh:
NATIONAL ATTENTION — Bomb blasts, a weak economy and continual changes within the game's national governing body become mere minor distractions for Pakistan's cricket-mad population of 190 million whenever the team participates in major tournaments. With the cricket world shying away from touring Pakistan since a 2009 terror attack, cricket-starved fans will be closely following the World T20 and hoping for the victory — particularly against arch-rival India.
PREDICTABLY UNPREDICTABLE — No matter how hard the opposition studies any weak links in the Pakistan team, they are seldom prepared for what they face in match conditions. On any given day Pakistan can surprise the strongest teams in the world through their sheer skills, but then come the inexplicable losses to weaker teams.
AFRIDI FACTOR — The awesome power-hitting of Shahid Afridi can tear apart any sort bowling attack, as he showed during the recent Asia Cup with his two blistering knocks against India and Bangladesh. Veteran of the record 70 T20s, the enigmatic allrounder has teammates and fans sweating as works to recover from a hamstring injury in time to play against two tough group rivals — India and Australia.
BOWLED OVER: Bowling has been the mainstay of Pakistan's set up in all the three formats of the game. The bowling attack for this tournament includes T20's top three wicket-takers in Saeed Ajmal (81), Umar Gul (74) and Afridi (73). The three contributed to Pakistan's victory in the 2009 World T20, its run to the 2007 and to the semifinals in 2010 and 2012. Fast bowler Junaid Khan and captain Mohammad Hafeez also give extra impetus to the Pakistan attack.
BRITTLE BATTING: Pakistan is yet to find a replacement for hard-hitting Misbah-ul-Haq, who quit international T20s in 2012 but still — at age 39 — represents his hometown in domestic tournaments. A relatively inexperienced Pakistan top order has struggled against quality bowling, forcing selectors to recall Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal for the Bangladesh event. The absence of Pakistan players from the world's richest domestic league, the Indian Premier League, also deprives them of an opportunity to sharpen their skills against quality bowlers from all around the world.