Pakistan must develop skills to tackle spin for success in T20 World Cup: Misbah

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KARACHI: Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq on Tuesday said the main focus in the lead up to the Twenty20 World Cup should be on improving the skills of playing spin bowling more than anything, keeping in mind that the global competition will be hosted by India.

Addressing a virtual media conference on the eve of the opening fixture of the three-match Twenty20 International series against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Tuesday, Misbah maintained that the code word for the Pakistan team will be to improve their spinning skills, both in terms of batting and bowling.

“I think we need to strive for improvement as far as our play against spin is concerned. The pitches in India, where the World Cup will be held, traditionally favour slow bowling. Our batsmen need to plan their game on those lines and it’s not just about the top order but the batters coming in the middle and lower order,” Misbah said. “A major worry which [batting coach] Younis Khan also highlighted the other day is the lack of runs from the middle order. We won in South Africa because our top order performed outstandingly across both ODI and T20 series.

“When we go to the World Cup, I hope that the weak links confronting Pakistan will be solved because we still have a fair number of T20 matches coming up before Pakistan head to India [in October]. The failure of middle order is surely a worry but we are hoping to tick all boxes in time for the World Cup.

“As I have said earlier, our emphasis should be on improving spin-bowling skills. The bowlers have to work hard regardless of whether they are fast bowlers or spinners. Adapting to the pitches in India will be the key to success,” Misbah pointed out.

The head coach admitted Zimbabwe will be tricky opponents despite their low rankings in all formats and warned his charges to be on their guard in both T20 and the two-match Test series.

“Comparison between the two countries we are touring is not easy because not only the opposition are also different but the playing conditions too. South Africa were much stronger than Zimbabwe. And when you are playing a side which is nearly on equal terms, then you know what type of approach to take. But when you are playing a ‘weak’ team like Zimbabwe there is added pressure of winning,” Misbah stressed.

“The pressures vary because one can’t think of losing to the minnows. Zimbabwe are always challenging you in their own backyard because they know the conditions inside out, and since we are going to play all matches in Harare, the pitch will be inevitably on the slower side since majority of domestic matches have been also staged here.

“Therefore, we cannot afford to bee complacent since Zimbabwe are on the lookout to pounce on the opportunities if you are not at the top of your game. Such opponents are dangerous in the sense that they can embarrass strong sides. The pressure is on you because of the high expectations,” he concluded.