Sunday, February 13, 2011

World Cup defining moment for Pakistan - Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar has called the upcoming World Cup his last, claiming it to be defining moments for Pakistan Cricket and perhaps of his own career. In a characteristically free-wheeling chat, Shoaib reaffirmed that he wanted to stay fit throughout, and end the tournament with the trophy in hand.
"I want people to realize that still, very honourable people play for our country."
© Getty Images

"Is this the twilight of my career? Yes. It is very special, playing in the sub-continent's World Cup," Shoaib said in Dhaka. "I am not sure about how long I'm going to be playing, but I will try to make sure it is full of memories". 

"My personal target is to play every match and to leave 45-50 days after winning the World Cup," Shoaib said. "Obviously there's a huge difference between being 26 and 36. I have experience now but at the same time, I'm still bowling very quick, touching 145-150 kph easily." Shoaib used several adjectives to explain his team ranging from "dangerous", "the most balanced" and the one having the cause it needs, but what stood out was him using the word "hurt" to describe the side. 

"Obviously we are a very hurt side, whatever has happened in the last year or so. Pakistan needs a situation to gather themselves, and playing in India and Sri Lanka in the quarterfinals, that is going to really motivate us. I think the crowds, the situation, what happened to us, whatever the team has been through for the last six-seven months, that will inspire us. We are a very dangerous side but a very hurt side."

"We need to win at any cost, the team needs a situation, and what better situation than the World Cup. I think this is a defining moment for Pakistani cricket. 

Shoaib's personal motivation for this tournament comes from proving people wrong, not just about himself, but the team too. "I wish Mohammad Amir was playing right now, I would have retired easily but it is not happening." 

"That's what motivates me to come and play my last World Cup. I want people to realize that still, very honourable people play for our country."

Shoaib said that Pakistan's ability to swing old and new ball both ways is their strong point. The main advantage for us is reverse swing, that's where I think Pakistan team's strength lies. We have the best combination of reverse swing and new-ball fast bowlers. I think we can manage to put it out right," Shoaib said, adding that the slow nature of the wickets might yet hamper the fast bowlers but will assist the batsmen. 

The 2009 Twenty20 World Cup triumph was perfect for the situation at the time in Pakistan, but shoaib firmly believed that if they can do it again this time, it could provide the fans of Pakistan Cricket with more than just heroes or a trophy. "Pakistan needs to win this World Cup to bring back cricket to Pakistan, the charm back to country. People of Pakistan are missing cricket, they are dying to watch players from all over the world playing against Pakistan."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

United Pakistan seek World Cup glory

Shahid Afridi has laid down the markers for those who would underestimate Pakistan in this World Cup. They are, he said, the 'most dangerous side in the World Cup', and has pointed to the mix of youth and experience that has drawn parallels, however tenuous, with the side that won the tournament almost 20 years ago.

Shahid Afridi : "We played well in New Zealand" © Getty Images

"We all know how important the competition is for my country," Afridi said in his first World Cup press conference in Mirpur. "This is a message for the other teams: No one can underestimate us. And when I said dangerous, [I meant] don't underestimate the Pakistan team. We are with a very good bunch of youngsters and experienced players. It is good to see Kamran Akmal back in the team, Misbah [ul-Haq] too is in good form and so is Younis [Khan]. We also have two genuine spinners and a fast bowler like Shoaib Akhtar."

While Imran Khan did not have to rebuild a side ravaged by controversy, there are a few similarities between this Afridi-led team and the triumphant side of 1992. Imran was missing a devastating opening bowler in an injured Waqar Younis, and his team also had a mix of young talent and experience.

Afridi, though lacking Imran's tactical nous, is capable of firing up his side and after their twin success in New Zealand last month (1-0 in Tests and 3-2 in ODIs); they are high on confidence and team spirit. "Pitches around the world are very similar. I think as we performed well in New Zealand conditions, we'll feel more confident on Asian tracks.

"We've gone through a very tough situation. As a captain I'm very happy because we were trying to rebuild the team and boost its morale. The team has gelled. We keep these (controversial) issues out of the team and we are focused on the cricket … We played well in New Zealand and the boys are united and they feel hungry."

Afridi also offered praise for the job done by the team's coach, Waqar Younis, and manager, Intikhab Alam, in keeping everyone together. "I, Inti bhai and Waqar Younis are trying to keep the team as a unit. Our dressing room atmosphere is much better. We are trying to keep the boys as close as we can and Alhamdulillah, we are being very successful."

In the same way as the 1992 team was practically built for Australian conditions, the 2011 version has enough versatility to conquer the subcontinent. But after the country was stripped of their rights to host the World Cup in 2009, it is an easy question to ask Afridi. Is the team happy playing in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and possibly India? Afridi didn't hesistate: "We have very good support in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. [And] if we win the World Cup, it would be a good message for world cricket that we want to play cricket, and maybe next time it will be held in Pakistan as well."

He admits being named World Cup captain just two weeks before the event (exactly one week ago) was difficult, but Afridi said he was "focusing on my performance. I am always enjoying my role as a captain and as a player so I didn't take it very seriously."

When the possibility of playing a certain opponent in the final was raised, his jaded face broke into a smile. "It would be great to see Pakistan and India in the final." If things go the way Pakistan expect, he will be asked this one question over and over again.

© Cricinfo

Friday, February 11, 2011

PCB general body meets after 10 years

Pakistan Cricket Board held its first meeting of general body in over a decade, on Friday. The meeting was held at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore as per clause 17 of the constitution of the PCB.

Ijaz Butt talked about improvements in women cricke© Associated Press

The board said it was the first time the general body had met since 1988, but one was held in Tauqir Zia's tenure in early 2000. A total of 73 members, made up of 18 full members, 53 associate members and two honorary members - former board chairmen Khalid Mehmood and Zia - attended the meeting.

General Body meeting discussed the PCB's annual report, as well as the audited accounts and budget estimates, and recommended to the governing board various measures to improve the standard of the game. Ijaz Butt also talked about the need to continue developing the women's game in Pakistan, given the achievements of Pakistan's team recently. Representatives of deaf and blind team were also involved in the meeting.

The general body is a larger, more representative body of stakeholders from around the country designed to ensure development and representation in areas such as interior Sindh and Balochistan, where the game is not as developed as in other provinces and regions. It is supposed to meet once or twice a year and acts as the parliament of the board, where the governing board is the senate.

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