Pakistan all-rounder Shoaib Malik is pumped up about the upcoming clash against arch-rivals India in the ongoing Asia Cup T20. The two countries have not played each other since the 2015 Word Cup, which India won convincingly thanks to Virat Kohli’s hundred and heroics from the bowlers.
Pakistan were scheduled to ‘host’ India in a bilateral limited-overs series late last year but the BCCI was not keen on traveling to the Middle East. Pakistan had subsequently turned down an offer to play in India.
After much speculation, the Pakistan government today gave its cricket team the nod to go ahead and play the ICC World Twenty20 in India. The two sides will face off in Dharamshala on March 19.
However, before that, they will play in Mirpur this Saturday and Malik feels it would be a cracker of a game despite India’s dominant performances this year.
Out of the seven T20 Internationals they have played this year, India have won six while Pakistan lost bilateral series against England (3-0) and New Zealand (2-1).
“Indian batsmen are very consistent but we have a good bowling attack. This is going to be a great game. This is going to be a big opportunity for players of both the teams, India-Pakistan matches always are,” Malik told in an exclusive interview.
Malik said Pakistan’s players are geared up after the Pakistan Super League and even though India have dominated Australia, Sri Lanka and hosts Bangladesh in the tournament opener, it would be a battle to watch out for in the weekend.
“Coming after playing the PSL straightaway, our preparation has been very good. There’s no doubt India have performed very well in Australia and even vs Bangladesh yesterday, (but) I think it will be a great battle between two good teams,” Malik said.
The 34-year-old, who has so far played 70 T20 matches for Pakistan, said it would be great to meet India in the final of the Asia Cup before the World T20 match next month as the two sides don’t get to play each other very often.
“We wish it happens (playing India again in the Asia Cup in final and then in Dharamshala on March 19). We always want to play more and more against each other. Let’s hope it happens.”
More importantly, Malik had to answer a question about wife and Indian tennis star Sania Mirza’s support. Who would she be cheering for when the two countries battle it out in front of the Mirpur crowd?
“We maintain the same status; she supports Team India and wants her husband to do well, perform well in the middle if he is playing,” said the former Pakistan captain.
Malik also had kind words to say for Mohammad Amir, who has made a successful international comeback after serving a five-year ban over his role in the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. The 23-year-old’s return had created a major controversy in Pakistan cricket, with a few senior players protesting during a national camp.
“Amir is returning after a gap of five years but you can see that his performance is consistent now. Cricketers of the world admit that he is still a world-class bowler but he needs a bit more time to settle down.”