SHARJAH: Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez strained his team will not take Afghanistan lightly in the first-ever Twenty20 international between the two nations in Sharjah.
War-ravaged Afghanistan have earned a reputation of being a dangerous team in the shortest format of the game, having last month qualified for their third successive World Twenty20 — to be held in Bangladesh in March-April next year.
Earlier this year, Afghanistan also qualified for the 2015 World Cup (50 overs) to be held in Australia and New Zealand.
They have an improved Twenty20 record, winning 11 of the 21 they have played so far, although all their four matches against Test playing nations in the last two World Twenty20s ended in defeats.
They lost to South Africa and India in the 2010 World Twenty20 held in the West Indies and two years later lost to England and India in Sri Lanka.
But Hafeez warned his team, which slumped from two to four in ICC T20 rankings after losing three of their four games against South Africa last month, on complacency.
“We will definitely not take Afghanistan lightly because they are a dangerous side and the shortest format suits them,” Hafeez said on Saturday.
Pakistan last year became the first Test nation to play Afghanistan in a one-day (50 overs) match, winning by seven wickets but Hafeez still wants his team to be at their peak.
“We need to be at our best and give them no chance because one player can change a Twenty20 match,” said Hafeez whose side will be without magician spinner Saeed Ajmal — the all-time highest wicket-taker in Twenty20 cricket with 77.
Ajmal opted to skip the match to get proper rest before Pakistan´s two Twenty20 games against Sri Lanka in Dubai on December 11 and 13.
Pakistan will also play five one-day internationals and three Tests against Sri Lanka.
Despite Ajmal´s absence, Pakistan will have Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Zulfiqar Babar in the spin department which will likely exploit Afghanistan batsmen´s weakness against slow bowlers.
Hafeez said: “We can use the Afghanistan match to get tuned up without giving any chance to the opponents who have played more at this venue than us.”