Proudly leading the Lahore Lions into the Champions League Twenty20, Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez said that his team has the firepower and ability to handle pressure and make it to the main draw of the lucrative league. (Why Hafeez is Angry)
The Lahore Lions squad, which leaves on Monday will play their qualifying matches at Raipur to find out if they can qualify for the main rounds - a feat that no other Pakistan outfit has ever achieved.
"It is a tough challenge for us but the fact that we are playing in India is a big spur on for the players and what gives me confidence is our team combination," Hafeez told PTI in an interview on Monday.
"We have six international players (Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema) all of whom have proven they can handle pressure of playing in a big event and in front of big crowds. And the other players are also battle hardened and capable of winning matches on their own," Hafeez said.
The non-international players include a budding all-round leg-spinner Saad Naseem, spinners Adnan Rasool, Mustafa Ali and Ali Manzoor, batsman Hamad Butt and pacer Imran Ali.
All the players have done well at the domestic level except for a little-known Ali Manzoor.
"The key to success will be how we handle pressure. If we can do that we can play in the main rounds. Our preparations as a team have not been ideal for such a big event but we know it is a big platform for us to enhance Pakistan cricket's image and bring joy to our countrymen," Hafeez said.
The former Pakistan T20 captain who has played before in India said that his team would have three days in India to organize themselves and gel as a unit.
"The heavy rains in Lahore have affected our preparations and then the board also scheduled fitness tests so yes our preparations have not been what we would have liked."
"I have already told them that when as a Pakistani you play in India there is lot of pressure and also expectations from you. Not only from your own people but also the Indian crowds who have respect for our cricket and our cricket achievements," he added.
Hafeez said he had always enjoyed playing in India because Pakistani players had a fan following. "The players in our side know they can become heroes if they do well and take the team into the main rounds as it is a high profile event. Myself I am in fine nick and looking forward this challenge."
Hafeez said the team would be going to India as ambassadors of Pakistan and try to leave a positive and friendly image of the nation among the Indian people while showcasing their talents.
Asked why he thought the Sialkot Stallions (in South Africa) and Faisalabad Wolves had not qualified for the main rounds in the previous two editions, Hafeez said because some of their players couldn't handle the pressure of the event.
The former Pakistan captain however cautioned that while one should remain optimistic about the teams chances, but the limitations of the Lahore Lions compared to the other sides in the event cannot be ignored.
"My biggest concern is that compared to other teams we don't have the required professional support staff with us. But we will have to manage and our coach, Mohsin Kamal is a very energetic and dedicated individual. So there is more responsibility on our international players to do well in India," he said.