February 14, 2003

Wasim Akram: We will do better in the coming games

KIMBERLEY (South Africa), Feb 14: The 82-run defeat in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 opener against Australia has not dampened the spirits of the Pakistan cricket team as the 1992 world champions remain optimistic and confident of reaching the Super Sixes stage.

The Pakistanis arrived in Kimberley on Wednesday and have held two tough training sessions at De Beers Diamond Oval, Kimberley, the venue of Sunday's match against Namibia. Although it rained heavily early Friday morning, the boys were at the stadium at 0930 hours under thick cloud cover with a cool breeze blowing across for a curtailed 180-minute session because of Friday prayers. If the local MET office is to be believed, there would be bright sunshine in the next two days with the mercury expected to rise up to 35 degrees.

"I told you we are going to win some and lose some. The long tournament has just started and the spirits are still very much high," former captain Wasim Akram said.

"We need to stay focused, put behind the Australian match and keep moving forward. We realize that we are a good enough team, better than most of the teams in the tournament, and its just a matter of getting one good victory under the cap. I am certain that we will do better in the coming games," Wasim, with 493 one-day wickets, added.

The boys were naturally down after Tuesday's defeat but have recovered well and look more confident, determined and keen to lift the standard of their game. The younger boys have been helped by the seniors, most noticeably by skipper Waqar Younis, vice-captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rashid Latif, Wasim Akram and Saeed Anwar.

Pakistan received confidence-boosting news Friday morning when Saeed Anwar took an active part in the team's training session and looks likely to return to the international scene.

"I am feeling much better. Although I lack match practice but the elbow is not bothering me at all," Saeed said.

Pakistan manager Shaharyar Khan said he was delighted with the recovery of Saeed who missed Tuesday's match after he was hit on the left elbow by a rising Shoaib Akhtar delivery during a net session in Johannesburg.

"I think Saeed Anwar will be available for Sunday's match," Shaharyar Khan said.

Skipper Waqar Younis admitted that a couple of changes will be made for Sunday's match, including the return of magician spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.

"We are likely to make a few changes and Saqlain Mushtaq looks certain to be one of the inclusions. Saeed is also under consideration for selection but we will have a last look at him on Saturday before making a final decision," Waqar said.

He added: "Shoaib Akhtar, I think, requires match practice and we are still not sure if to play him or not. We will decide the composition of the team on Saturday evening."

The mood in the Pakistan camp suggests that this team hasn't given up and was even more motivated. Waqar said his boys knew that it would be a tough tournament and were ready for future challenges.

"We are not taking the Namibia game lightly. We will play hard cricket and will try to rectify some of the weaker links in our team. Besides, the format of the competition is such that you also have to be at your best against lowly placed teams because you carry over points in the Super Sixes against the non-qualifiers also," he said.

Waqar said Pakistan didn't do as badly as the result against Australia suggested. "I mean it was just one excellent innings by Andrew Symonds that took the game away from us. We didn't drop any catches and the bowling was also not that bad. Yes, the batsmen didn't get big scores but hopefully they will shortly break the lean patch as the wickets, I believe, will be more friendly for the stroke-makers rather than the bowlers."

Pakistan's South African coach Richard Pybus is making all the boys undergo different drills and is even taking boys individually to the nets, a fact that shows his concerns. And the boys are also reciprocating as they are enjoying their cricket, courtesy some of the most brilliant facilities and conditions that are available here.

Dennis Waight, is making them train harder with the obvious aim being to increase their endurance, stamina and fitness level while Daryl Foster is always working with the bowlers trying to make slight adjustments in their bowling actions and advising them how to use the crease.

The local media has also pinned hopes on the Pakistan cricket team to bounce back and reach the Super Sixes.

"Without in any way being disrespectful to Namibia, Sunday's match is all about the margin of Pakistan's victory," said Diamond Fields Advertiser newspaper, adding: "One shrewd observer of the game was surprised at the intensity of Pakistan's practice on Thursday."

Samiul Hasan
Media Manager
Pakistan Cricket Team
Mobile + 27 83 506 5828