Pakistan battles fitness issues ahead of Bangladesh clash

Skipper Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Sami are doubtful starters for Pakistan. A loss against Bangladesh would put enormous pressure on Afridi’s men ahead of the much-awaited clash with India.

Shahid Afridi's absence will be a huge blow for Pakistan in its opening clash against Bangladesh.   -  PTI

The security at the Eden Gardens, according to some, was unprecedented. The Pakistan team practised here on Tuesday and the cops took no chances.

Even as the Pakistani cricketers stretched their limbs, someone was conspicuous with his absence. >Shahid Afridi, nursing a fever, did not train with his team.

Read: >Waqar: Anything is possible

Pakistan’s talismanic skipper’s participation in the game depends on how well he feels on the morning of the match. The swashbuckling Afridi is critical to a team already lacking in experience.

Ahead of the Super-10 game against Bangladesh in the ICC World Twenty20 on Wednesday, Pakistan has another fitness concern. Having taken a hit on his leg, senior paceman >Mohammad Sami is a doubtful starter.

Pakistan needs to begin its campaign on a winning note. A loss against Bangladesh – the side’s recent tormenter – would put enormous pressure on Afridi’s men ahead of the much-awaited clash with India.

Wobbly batting line-up

The side has to fill the gaps in its increasingly wobbly batting line-up. The top-order, in particular, has been vulnerable.

Will the recall of Ahmed Shehzad lend more weight to this area?

Shehzad can be mercurial with his stroke-play but there are unanswered questions about his temperament.

Also read: >Pakistan team preview

If Shehzad fires from one end and Mohammad Hafeez controls the innings from the other, then the likes of Shoiab Malik, Umar Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed can consolidate and then up the tempo.

Paksiatan has firepower in bowling, possessing three left-arm pacemen of speed and thrust in Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Irfan.

The contest between the Pakistani fast bowlers and the Bangladesh opening duo of Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar, contrasting strokemakers, should be engaging.

If the team, however, cannot get Afridi into the park on Wednesday, its spin department, already under the scanner, would be weakened further. Bangladesh has a more varied spin attack which should be handy for the side on a surface where the ball could turn.

Shakib will be a key factor

>Shakib Al Hasan will be a key factor with his left-arm spin and calculated hitting. Turning out for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, he comprehends the conditions well.

Bangladesh also has greater depth in batting with the likes of Mahmudullah, skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, and Nasir Hossain often chipping in with valuable scores down the order. The side, though, is still sweating over the fitness of its skilful medium-pacer Mustafizur Rahman. The paceman, who often strikes with his clever changes of pace and angles, is recovering from a side strain.

Batting should be a good option in a match beginning at 3 p.m. The pitch could get slower as the game progresses and the dew should not overly handicap the bowlers.