Shoaib: Pakistan need World Cup win

Paceman Shoaib Akhtar believes winning Cricket World Cup will bring ‘charm’ back to Pakistan after spot-fixing scandal.

Shoaib Akhtar
Shoaib said he is looking forward to a World Cup duel with India’s Sachin Tendulkar [GALLO/GETTY]

Former Pakistan captain Shoaib Akthar has set his sights on victory at his third and probably final World Cup, saying only a victory can renew his country’s passion for cricket in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that has engulfed Pakistan.

After captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were banned on charges of corruption by the International Cricket Council (ICC) tribunal earlier this month, Akhtar has spoken out about the need to bring the ‘charm’ back to people in Pakistan.

“Obviously we are very hurt inside by whatever has happened to us,” Akhtar, 35, told reporters in Dhaka.

“Pakistan need to win this World Cup at any cost.”

Charm offensive

Shoaib, who has claimed 244 wickets in 160 one-day internationals, said a victory “will bring the charm back for people in Pakistan.”

Akhtar also insisted that despite the loss of the new-ball pair Aamer and Asif in the Pakistan pace attack, there were enough bowling resources at their disposal.

“Obviously, we are unfortunate that they are not there. But still whatever the pace attack we have is good enough to win matches,” Shoaib told a news conference in Dhaka ahead of next Saturday’s World Cup opening in the sub-continent.

He said Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and himself along with Junaid Khan could still restrict any side in the world.

“We have the bowlers who can bowl at the death and we can restrict the sides. The main thing is that the ball is going to reverse swing as the match progresses. That is where I think Pakistan’s strength lies.”

The 35-year old pace bowler hinted this was going to be his last World Cup and he was ready to take whatever came his way.

“This is the third (World Cup) in my career and it is very special, obviously. But my plan is to play for a longer period.  I am not sure about it,” he said.

“To make this World Cup full of memories, you know, every moment, every ball, every run is going to be memorable for me and I want to take it all in,” he said.

Akhtar said he was confident of rattling up a good pace as he used to when at his prime.

“I still bowl 150 kph (93 mph). Obviously when you are 26 and 36, it’s a bit different. I will try to do as well as I can with whatever ability I have. I am going to push my limits and give it all to the team.”

Tendulkar battle

Pakistan team

Shahid Afridi (c)
Mohammad Hafeez
Kamran Akmal
Younus Khan
Asad Shafiq
Umar Akmal
Abdul Razzaq
Abdur Rehman
Saeed Ajmal
Shoaib Akhtar
Umar Gul
Wahab Riaz
Sohail Tanvir
Ahmed Shehzad

Akhtar, who missed the last World Cup in the wake of a doping ban and fitness problems, also said he was looking forward to a likely duel with India’s Sachin Tendulkar.

“We all know he is a great player. Every bowler gets hit. Even Brett Lee gets hit a long way, so I am now worried about being hit for sixes by Tendulkar. I have got him off the first ball too.

“Not only Sachin, we will try to get other key players early because they can single-handedly win matches. Put them under pressure, and get them out early – that’s what I will like to do.”

India and Pakistan have been placed in different groups for the tournament, which begins in Dhaka on February 19.

The 14 teams have been divided into two groups for the initial round-robin league, with the top four from each half advancing to the quarter-finals.

At the last World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007, Pakistan were knocked out in the first round and their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead during the tournament in his Jamaican hotel room.

Source: News Agencies