Less than 24 hours after the one-sided defeat in Dubai, the two-time Asian champions were back in the nets at ICC Academy with captain Sarfraz Ahmed and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman among the players to take part in an optional training session.
Mickey Arthur’s side face Afghanistan in Friday’s Asia Cup Super Four stage and Masood insists the team spirit is still high after the loss to their arch rivals.
“The mood hasn’t changed much,” said Masood on Thursday evening. “We all knew that winning the first group stage would guarantee qualification (to the Super Four stage). The hard work and real work will start from now because whatever we do will have repercussions. A win would benefit us while a defeat will cost us. The mood is still positive and we’re looking to play the Asia Cup final.”
Pakistan were in trouble from the word go at Dubai International Cricket Stadium when openers Imam Ul-Haq (2) and Zaman (0) were both dismissed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar that left them 2-3 after just four overs. Arthur’s side went on to manage 162 but India chased down the target with more than 21 overs to spare.
Masood said it is unfair to criticise both openers following their recent good form but is confident they will bounce back.
“We can’t look at one innings and start pointing fingers at people,” said Masood, who has yet to win an ODI cap but has played 12 Tests. “If we look at Fakhar and Imam, they have performed consistently and managed to break a few records. Imam has scored four hundreds in 10 ODI games so that speaks volumes in itself.
“It was probably his first India-Pakistan game and anyone who plays it for the first time does come under nerves. He is a great player and Fakhar is an outstanding player and at the moment, one failure doesn’t matter.”
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed is unhappy that his team is being asked to play its Super Four match in Abu Dhabi while India get to stay in Dubai irrespective of where the two teams finish in the group stage of the Asia Cup.
One the eve of the much-awaited India-Pakistan clash in Dubai on Wednesday, Sarfraz said asking other teams to travel for an hour and a half one way during a tournament and allowing just one to stay in Dubai is unfair.
Even if Pakistan defeat India and top Group A, the men in blue will get to stay and play in Dubai.
“Even if India lose their match, they will play in Dubai. If you have to travel during matches for one and a half hour. It is difficult. And then train in this weather… It should be even for all teams. If there are matches in Abu Dhabi, all teams should play there,” Sarfraz said on Tuesday.
It has added some spice to an already charged up atmosphere for the first clash between the two teams since the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Sarfraz said Pakistan’s 180-run win in the final is well in the past and the players need to re-focus and, more importantly, take it as a normal match.
“Tension is always there. As a player, we take it normally. But the hype that is created in media, social media, if does have an effect. We ask players to play India-Pakistan match like any other match,” the wicketkeeper batsman said.
“Champions Trophy is in the past. It’s history. Those memories will remain with us. But this is a new event, atmosphere. Conditions are different.”
AMIR A CONCERN
Left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir has been out of form in ODIs since his match-winning effort in the Champions Trophy final against India. Since then in eight ODIs, Amir has picked up just three wickets and gone wicketless in five games. Also, he has not completed his quota of overs since the Champions Trophy last year.
Sarfraz said he has talked to Amir and told him he is a strike bowler who needs to pick up wickets. However, the captain didn’t confirm whether Amir will play against India on Wednesday.
“There is concern (about Amir). Sometimes you bowl well and you don’t pick wickets. Look at India’s Mohammed Shami (in England). He bowled well but didn’t pick up many wickets. As a captain, I want Amir to bowl well. His inability to pick up wickets is a concern. I have talked to him and explained to him you are a strike bowler and that is his job. I hope he strikes soon.”
Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Usman Khan starred with the ball as he picked up three wickets for 19 runs on a slow Dubai surface against Hong Kong in his team’s Asia Cup opener on Sunday.
While the result in itself was never in doubt with Pakistan winning by eight wickets chasing 117 inside 25 overs, the focus was on the players ahead of the all-important clash against India at the same venue on Wednesday.
Usman is also concentrating on that match as it will be first clash between the two countries since Pakistan’s thumping win in the Champions Trophy final last year. And the left-arm quick is aiming for five wickets.
“Whoever performs in India-Pakistan match, his career goes to a new level. I took three wickets today, hope to take five wickets against India,” Usman said after the match-winning effort with the ball against Hong Kong.
India are not in the best of form with all their players yet to train together consistently in the UAE heat. But Usman said India are a top-class team and can’t be taken lightly.
“India is the number one team. They have very good players. It’s a big match. We prepared 100 per cent. We had a long training camp in Lahore. I saw India train, they are preparing well also.”
Pakistan have been playing in the UAE for nearly a decade and the country is like a second home for them. The left-arm quick admitted it gives the men in green a big advantage.
“Playing in UAE is an advantage over India. We are used to pitches and ground. It’s a home ground for us,” the 24-year-old said.
The pacer added the wicket in Dubai this time is behaving differently and taking wickets on it will be an issue.
“Today’s wicket was very slow. I was trying to bowl with pace. I was going for wickets with new ball. In second spell, the pitch was such that ball deteriorated and I was getting reverse swing and thus got wickets.
“This looks like such an old pitch. Very slow. Bowling is difficult on this. If you hit the length hard, you can get wickets,” he added.