Asia Cup preview: Pakistan

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Characteristic upheaval off the field, typified by the removal of an important selector and chairman, has left Pakistan with an immediate need to maintain focus in the arena.

<b>Captain:</b> Misbah-ul-Haq<br><b>Coach:</b> Moin Khan<br><b>Asia Cup Best:</b> Winners – 2000, 2012

<b>Overview</b><br>Characteristic upheaval off the field, typified by the removal of an important selector and chairman, has left Pakistan with an immediate need to maintain focus in the arena. Former captain Wasim Akram wants the fast bowlers rotated more, new coach Moin Khan inexplicably beat erstwhile pace ace Waqar Younis to the position and – through it all – captain Misbah-ul-Haq (tipped to impress against Sri Lanka in particular, in the <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/one-day-internationals/Pakistan-v-Sri-Lanka-6579615.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>online cricket betting</b></a> stakes) and company will enter the competition as one of the favourites regardless.

<b>Key Batsman</b><br>The hard-hitting <b>Ahmed Shehzad</b> has been a proverbial breath of fresh air to a batting order otherwise dogged by the same old, tried and tested. What the recalled Mohammad Hafeez sometimes brings and Misbah far too often has to deliver, Shehzad will likely augment. In the inexperienced Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood, too, he boasts worthy contemporaries.

<b>Key Bowler</b><br>Left-armer Junaid Khan has emerged as the leader of the pack lately, given the veteran Umar Gul's struggles with injury and the lack of experience of seam trio Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti and Mohammad Talha. His ability to find swing and penchant for seam in conditions largely averse to such elements will be key to a defence otherwise reliant on spinners.

<b>Likely Benchwarmer</b><br>The jury is still out on all-rounder Fawad Alam; one for the future or soon to be discarded? The 28-year-old has failed to make a marked impact in either code since debuting 2007, and this edition might be last-chance saloon. A team lined with serious talent with both bat and ball just can't afford an average Jack of all trades.

<b>Cricket365's Prediction</b><br>Triumphant in 2012, against a rather resurgent Bangladesh unit, Pakistan will face a substantially more difficult campaign this year. Of the tournament's big three, which is completed by India and Sri Lanka, the Pakistanis boast the lowliest standing in the ICC's ODI rankings. They'll probably <b>see Sri Lanka in the final, which will be met with a disappointing fall</b> at the final hurdle – unless their preceding three matches truly vindicate favourable <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Asia Cup betting odds</b></a>.

<b>They Said:</b> "The team is in good shape. Cricket is a confidence game and we have been playing well in the last three-four months. We have to do our basics right to have a good chance." – captain <b>Misbah-ul-Haq</b>.

<b>Squad:</b> Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Mohammad Talha.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>25 February: v Sri Lanka, Fatullah<br>27 February: v Afghanistan, Fatullah<br>2 March: v India, Mirpur<br>4 March: v Bangladesh, Mirpur

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