Pakistan's greatest challenge as they get ready to take guard against South Africa will be to focus on the game itself. There has been much discordance off the field with captain and coach lashing out at the selection committee for supposedly not consulting them over team selection. Former Pakistani cricketers have also expressed displeasure at the soaring tensions. Such negativity bodes badly for a team striving to move past the spot-fixing scandal that rocked it over the summer.
Pakistan however, does have some encounraging news to fall back on. Veteran Misbah Ul Haq will not only be making a return to international cricket, but has also be named Test captain. His reputation and experience should help bolster up Pakistan's middle order following Mohammed Yousuf's departure due to an injury. Meanwhile premier batsman Younis Khan too finds a place in the side after being banned indefinitely by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for disciplinary reasons.
Pakistan's bowling will be a worry though, with two quality seamers in Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir subjected to provisional suspensions by the ICC. The onus now falls on experienced pacers Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar to rise to the occasion. T20 captain Shahid Afridi doesn't seem too perturbed. He said. "We know we are without two of our best bowlers, but we still have ample talent to counter South Africa who are a very good side in the shorter form of the game."
The South Africans, on the other hand, have demonstrated all too clearly in the series against Zimbabwe that they are in prime form. They will look to experienced batsman Hashim Amla for leadership while welcoming back Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis who were rested against Zimbabwe. ODI and test captain Graeme Smith is confident that his strong and stable side stands a very good chance in overpowering Pakistan in the UAE. South Africa can also look forward to contributions for its new-comer David Miller whose reputation as a hard-hitter hasplaced him in contention for a berth in the World Cup squad. It is yet to be seen if pacer Morne Morkel who has been out due to an ankle injury will also be brought back in the side.
Pakistan can take solace in the fact that they have beaten South Africa twice out of three previous Twenty20 encounters. The matches which Pakistan won were in the World Twenty20 in 2009 and 2010.