Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is upbeat about his team’s chances of putting up a solid showing during the tour of South Africa ahead of this year’s all-important assignment - the World Cup in the West Indies.
“We will be taking part in the World Cup immediately after the tour of South Africa which makes it very crucial for us,” Inzamam told reporters on Tuesday night, just before the Pakistani squad’s departure for Johannesburg for the 40-day tour that includes three Tests, five One-day Internationals (ODIs) and a Twenty20 game.
The tour, that begins with a three-day practice game against South Africa A at Kimberly on January 6, would end on Valentines’ Day just a month before Pakistan’s World Cup opener against hosts the West Indies at Jamaica on March 13.
Pakistan have an unimpressive record in South Africa where they lost a series just before the 2003 World Cup but Inzamam said that this time his team was fully ready for the job.
“We are taking a very balanced team on this tour and I am confident of getting some positive results in South Africa,” said Inzamam who is at the helm of a 17-member squad that looks stronger than the one that beat the West Indies 2-0 in a Test series at home this winter because of return of medium pacer Mohammad Asif.
Asif and fellow new-ball partner Shoaib Akhtar missed the home series because of doping bans but were available for selection after being cleared by an appeals committee last month.
Pakistan opted to bring back Asif but controversially overlooked Shoaib on the grounds that the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ lacked match fitness. However, there were unconfirmed reports that it was Inzamam who made it sure that Shoaib is ignored for the tour.
Inzamam got visibly upset when asked whether he got Shoaib dropped at the Jinnah International Terminal. “I would not like to comment on it,” he retorted and walked away to join his teammates to board the aircraft.
However, in another interview he denied having anything against Shoaib. “It is a totally wrong impression that it was because of me that Shoaib is not in the team. He was only dropped because the selection committee thought he needed more time to get fully fit and I believe once he is in shape, Shoaib could be playing in the one-day series against South Africa,” he explained.
Some experts believe that Pakistan could be a bit handicapped without the pace of Shoaib, who once helped them record rare Test triumph in South Africa.
However, Inzamam said that his team has enough firepower to beat the South Africans. “We have several bowlers who are in good form and I expect them to do well in South Africa,” he said.
Inzamam said that Pakistan will go all out in the forthcoming series in a bid to gain confidence ahead of the World Cup.
“This series is going to help us get ready for the World Cup and it is really important for us to come out with a strong showing in it,” he said.
The experienced batsman believes Pakistan can do a better job than the Indians are currently doing in South Africa. Rahul Dravid’s men made a comeback in the series after a thrashing in the one-dayers by winning the opening Test in style. Their Test series against South Africa is tied 1-1 with the final match under progress in Cape Town.
Squad: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Faisal Iqbal, Asim Kamal, Mohammad Sami, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Zulqarnain Haider, Shahid Nazir.
6-8: Rest of South Africa, Kimberley
11-15: First Test, Centurion
19-23: Second Test, Port Elizabeth
26-30: Third Test, Cape Town
2: Twenty20 international,
4: First One-day International,
7: Second One-day International,
9: Third One-day International,
Port Elizabeth (day-night)
11: Fourth One-day International,
Cape Town (day)
14: Fifth One-day International,
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2007 and is filed under General.
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