Shoaib Malik 
Sports

Asia Cup clash against India ‘just another game’ for Shoaib Malik

Lahore, Sep 8: Pakistan middle-order batsman Shoaib Malik played down the hype around his team's Asia Cup clash against India on September 19, calling it "just another game."

"I think that the match against India is just another game and we should avoid creating hype as it adds unnecessary pressure," Malik told reporters on Friday. However, he acknowledged the opportunity that the fixture provides to players to make their mark.

"This is perhaps the only cricket match that the entire cricket fraternity watches and not only India and Pakistan fans, which is why it provides a massive opportunity to players if they want to become a hero," he said.

Malik is right. Just ask Fakhar Zaman, who starred with a 106-ball 114 in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 final against India and has since then grown leaps and bounds to become one of the mainstays of the Pakistan line-up, and having scored his first one-day international double hundred, an ICC report on Saturday said. Malik also has a good ODI record against India – he has scored four out of his nine ODI centuries against India, two of which have come in Asia Cup encounters, and has 1661 runs at 47.45 in 39 matches against them.

With the tournament being played in the United Arab Emirates, Malik said familiar conditions will help his side, but pointed out that Pakistan haven't fared as well in ODIs in the UAE as they have in Tests.

"Playing in UAE gives us an advantage but it is not as easy as people think it is,” said Malik. “If you notice our track record here, it is better in Test cricket but when it comes to playing the shorter formats our performances aren’t extraordinary.

"People need to understand that batting under lights here is difficult as conditions are different but that does not mean there isn’t room for improvement. We will continue working to improve in this particular area."

While the clash against India is expected to steal the limelight, Pakistan do have Hong Kong as well to deal with. The Associate nation qualified for the tournament by winning the Asia Cup Qualifier 2018, and Malik isn't taking any team lightly. "I believe that ODIs are following a pattern similar to that in T20I cricket, which is why I don’t consider any team weak," he said.

Pakistan have named a strong 16-man squad for the six-team tournament, and Malik is happy to find the top three of Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam in good touch. The three finished as the top three run scorers in Pakistan's last ODI series, a five-match affair against Zimbabwe, which Pakistan swept 5-0.

Zaman topped the charts with 515 runs, while Haq and Azam returned 395 and 184 runs respectively from five games. “Batsmen at the top of the order, positions one to three, should score the bulk of the runs if the team is to post a good total on the board. We are glad that our top three are in great form and we expect them to continue their good run in the Asia Cup as well," Malik said.

As for the bowling, he added, "I believe that it is important to have two-three bowlers who can pick up wickets during the middle overs to break momentum of the opposing sides." UNI