Pakistan team switch to tournament mode in WC opener

Pakistan are all geared up to switch to tournament mode as they go into the World Cup opener against the West Indies today with a firm belief they can swim all the way in this 16-nation spectacle.

Playing without three key players including the ace duo of pace — Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif — Pakistan are not counted among the top contenders for the crown but Inzamam-ul-Haq’s men are not worried about pre-tournament predictions.

“We are here on a mission and that mission is to win the World Cup,” Inzamam declared on Monday ahead of the crucial Group D clash against the West Indies here at the Sabina Park. “Some people might call us favourites some might not but I don’t take such talks seriously. It would be a whole new ball game when the tournament starts tomorrow and each team whether considered favourite or not will have to work hard to win. We are perfectly prepared to do all it takes to win matches here,” added the Pakistan captain.

Pakistan seemed to have blown their World Cup hopes last month when the ‘injured’ Shoaib and Asif — two of their most important players — were pulled out of the 15-man World Cup squad just before it flew out to the Caribbean. It was a jolt which many experts thought had derailed Pakistan’s World Cup campaign even before the start of the tournament.

But two impressive wins in a row in warm-up games including a seven-wicket triumph over favourites South Africa in Trinidad last week have catapulted Pakistan back in contention. Publicly Inzamam and his coach Bob Woolmer have declared the wins were not really important but privately the two positive results have sprung a new life into the Pakistani camp.

Gone is the atmosphere of doom and gloom that was a product of the setbacks suffered in the form of losing Shoaib, Asif and Abdul Razzaq — another integral part of Pakistan’s one-day squad. The players now seem to be all pumped up and raring to go.

“This is the sort of spirit that is a must if you want to win big events like the World Cup. It is the sort of spirit we were blessed with when we won in 1992,” says Inzamam referring to Pakistan’s sole World Cup triumph 15 years back.

Inzamam was a member of that triumphant squad and the veteran batsman now wants to revive those moments of glory. With the pace attack a bit depleted, Pakistan’s script for the World title is simple.

They are expecting a star-studded batting line to post big totals and are looking towards the bowlers to contain the opposition with tidy efforts. The one bowler they are expecting to deliver big hauls is leg-spinner Danish Kaneria. It is quite an irony actually.

Till just recently Kaneria did not even figure in Pakistan’s ODI equation. But a series of unfortunate events have forced Kaneria into the spotlight. And the spinner is relishing the opportunity. “I am really looking forward to play a big role in our World Cup campaign,” says Kaneria, who was the architect of Pakistan Test triumph against the West Indies at Sabina Park in 2005.

Another man who is itching to get down there and find his golden form is the captain himself. Inzamam is not prepared to retire yet but knows that it is going to be his last World Cup. He was Pakistan’s hero in 1992 but since then has been unable to really click in a World Cup. Inzamam’s last World Cup was nightmarish for him and Pakistan when he could just make 19 runs in six outings and his team made an embarrassing first round exit.

“I know there is a lot of responsibility on me both as captain and senior batsman,” he agrees. “And I’m ready to perform both the roles.” Pakistan are also hoping that together with Inzamam, their much touted middle order which boasts Mohammad Yousuf — arguably the world’s best Test batsman at the moment — and the reliable Younis Khan live up to expectations.

Then Mohammad Hafeez has also found his rhythm at the right time with impressive performances with both the bat and ball in the warm-up games. The team for the match against the Windies was to be decided late on Monday night but the team management was unlikely to make any surprising inclusions.

For the West Indians, the key man would be their skipper Brian Lara. Like Inzamam, Lara is also playing his fifth and final World Cup and is his team’s premier batsman. The West Indians have lost six of the last seven ODI matches against Pakistan but Lara is not concerned.

“We go into tomorrow’s match knowing fully well what our capabilities are and I’m confident we can start our campaign with a win here,” says Lara. The wicket at Sabina Park is expected to produce some runs thought the spinners should get assistance from the track that traditionally offers some turn. Weather reports indicate towards a partly cloudy day with scattered showers in Kingston today (Tuesday).
Source:The News

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