IPL: Indian Premier League 2009

Afridi eyes Asia Cup as launch pad for World Cup


Pakistan will leave for a 101-day odyssey on Saturday (today) that will first take them to Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup before a long summer in England.

The last time they went on a long sojourn — the twin tours of New Zealand and Australia — Pakistan had to endure a series of controversies and returned home after losing all their matches against the Aussies.

During the best part of their visit Down Under, Pakistani players came across as a divided lot and visibly lacked any team spirit which many critics blame as the biggest reason why the tourists even lost matches from seemingly winning positions.

Later, a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) probe committee ruled that the national team flopped because its players were engaged in infighting and went on the extent of punishing seven of its leading members including Mohammad Yousuf — Pakistan’s captain in New Zealand and Australia.

However, Shahid Afridi, Pakistan’s current captain, believes all those controversies are now a thing of the past.

“What has happened cannot be changed,” he told ‘The News’ on the eve of Pakistan’s departure for Dambulla — the city in central Sri Lanka that will host the quadrangular Asia Cup from June 15-24.

“What we can do is ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We cannot afford to be a bickering lot and the only way we can give our best is by staying united,” he stressed.

Afridi assured that under him, there won’t be any ‘groupings’ within the Pakistan team. “What I want is that our team should be united on the field and off it.”

The skipper said that he would see to it that the players spend maximum time together in Sri Lanka and in England where Pakistan will lock horns with Australia in two Tests and a couple of Twenty20 Internationals before meeting the hosts in four Tests, five One-day Internationals and two T20 games. The tour will begin later this month and end on September 22.

“I know the importance of having frequent team meetings,” he said. “It’s also important for all the players to dine together as much as possible and discuss issues openly because these are the things that help to boost team spirit.”

Afridi, who was installed as Pakistan’s captain for all three formats last month, believes that his team is capable of producing good results both in Sri Lanka and in England.

“It’s a pretty balanced actually,” he said. “We have a very solid bowling attack and the batting is also looking good. There is a lot of potential. What we need is to translate that potential into positive results and that’s only possible if each and every player gives his best for the team.”

Afridi said that for the moment his team is just focusing on the Asia Cup. “We have a long and challenging tour of England coming up but right now we are completely focusing on the Asia Cup, which is also an important assignment.”

The skipper believes that a title-winning triumph in Dambulla will put his team on the right track for World Cup 2011. “A good showing in the Asia Cup would be a great start to our World Cup plans,” he concluded.

Source:Cricket News

Image Source:Cricinfo

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