ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Pallekele

Afridi says Umar is fit and will play

Osman Samiuddin in Pallekele

March 13, 2011

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Pakistan may be keen to stick to as stable an XI as possible as they go through the group stages of this tournament, but it doesn't seem likely they will be able to do so. They take on Zimbabwe in a potentially tricky encounter, in a vital game in Pallekele, knowing that a win will ensure a quarter-final berth for them.

But in the aftermath of last week's loss to New Zealand, their preparations have been hampered by a re-enactment of the Akmal brothers saga, seen for the first time in Australia early last year. The younger, Umar, injured his finger in fielding practice forcing him to sit out practice over the last couple of days. It also ruled him out as a replacement for Kamran as wicketkeeper, an option that was being considered in light of Kamran's costly, error-ridden hand against New Zealand.

The team was forced to deny that Umar was faking his injury in order to keep Kamran in the side, a situation that reportedly occurred - with a twist - after the Sydney Test last year. The uncertainty over Umar's availability has only deepened over the last two days. There is no fracture in his right index finger but he hasn't batted and he only began fielding on Sunday. To complicate matters further, he took a knock on his left ankle during a session of football on Sunday morning, though that isn't thought to be serious.

Shahid Afridi sounded confident about Umar's availability, though noises from the rest of the camp are not as positive. If Umar does not play, Asad Shafiq is likely to be the replacement. "Umar is fit, it is a light injury," Afridi said. "He was fielding just now and looking better. He is fine and definitely inshallah he will play tomorrow."

All the confusion makes one thing clear: Kamran will be in, for lack of a credible alternative if nothing else. All week the team has made reassuring noises about his wicketkeeping, about how hard he has worked and trained.

Shahid Afridi and Intikhab Alam have a chat, Pallekele, March 13, 2011
Shahid Afrid has backed Kamran Akmal, saying he has been working hard on his keeping © AFP

"His performance in batting hasn't been bad but yes he is struggling with his keeping," Afridi said. "But he is working very hard, you've seen it. We also haven't got such an option in the squad to whom we can give a chance in this tournament. It's been four days, he's working hard, he has support and our confidence, he is a better choice. I think he knows the mistakes he has committed and he will try to make up for it for sure."

Another change Pakistan are likely to make is to rest Shoaib Akhtar, who gave away 71 runs in his nine overs against New Zealand, and bring in Wahab Riaz.

Afridi is treading that fine line, currently, that all captains must at one point or another: to stick with struggling players and give them confidence in the name of stability, or bring in change for the sake of improvement. The matter is at its most acute with the openers Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez, both of whom have flopped with the bat. He doesn't want to experiment much, but he knows Pakistan can ill-afford more poor starts.

"I'm not trying to experiment as this is not the right time. I am trying to give confidence to everyone. During the competition we are trying to keep the same momentum and team with just one or two changes. At the moment the openers are thinking let's play 15 overs but don't lose wickets but also they are thinking let's play our positive games. I've told them play to your strengths, like you play in domestic cricket, play like that.

"Over the last couple of days they've worked really hard and the coaches have worked hard with them as well. I am confident they will perform."

Pakistan were unconvincing in the win against Canada in Colombo and fell apart against New Zealand, so Afridi hoped that they can get their campaign back on track. "We learnt a lot from that loss because we didn't perform well in the field, with the ball or bat. We should be more focused on the way we are going to start with the bat, the way we bowl with the new ball. We need the kind of good start we got against Sri Lanka. We'll try to put a decent total on the board and defend it and get them out as soon as possible."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 33 
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Posted by Farrukh on (March 15, 2011, 4:24 GMT)

Umer Akmal is fit and will play in match with Australia and batting order should be like below 1-Kamran Akmal 2-Muhammad Hafeez 3-Younis Khan 4-Misbah 5-Asad Shafiq 6-Umar Akmal 7-Abdul Razzaq 8-Shahid Afridi 9-Umar Gul 10-Saeed Ajmal 11-Shoaib Akhtar

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 8:22 GMT)

why is none of the cricinfo writers talking abotu Asad Shafiq as keeper? he is a keeper and has kept well in domestic. he should be the replacement. kamran should open with afridi and asad shafiq should be in middle order just before umar akmal.

Posted by Jawwad on (March 14, 2011, 8:22 GMT)

What ever happens, for once I am happy that the Pakistan camp is not utter chaos after an issue. The Capitan and the team management is reassuring in the media and backing up the players in contention.

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 8:01 GMT)

Go Team Pakistan :-) I really want you to win the world cup.

Posted by Amjad on (March 14, 2011, 7:47 GMT)

They should give a chance to Junaid Khan for this zimbabwe match !!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

If Zimbabwe batted first and make 200+ .....then dear pakistan world cup is over for you guys .....we know how good you guys in chase ....if u do through quarter finnals .....then dont forget every team knows u cant chase even 200 ..

Posted by Dummy4 on (March 14, 2011, 7:06 GMT)

Kamran Akmal will do good in one match to cement his place and then mess up again in crucial matches. I agree Junaid Khan should be given a chance

Posted by Ashok on (March 14, 2011, 6:31 GMT)

afridi make razzaq to bat more overs..

Posted by Owais on (March 14, 2011, 6:29 GMT)

Thats clearly the same drama they performed in post-sydney tour-down-under. They are good at it. And our PCB is with them - shame on PCB.

Posted by Amjad on (March 14, 2011, 6:05 GMT)

My probables Hafeez, Razzak, Asad, Younis, Misbah, Umar(wk), Afridi, Kamran, Gul, Ajmal, Akhtar.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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