14 February 2011
Afridi banking on Akhtar's experience
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi is banking on ageing fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar to come up trumps for his side in their bid to lift the World Cup trophy for the first time in nearly two decades.
Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Akhtar.
Afridi said Akhtar is working hard on his fitness and hoping to give his best in what could be his last World Cup.
"Let me tell you that Shoaib Akhtar is working really, really hard because he wants to be at his best in the World Cup. In terms of fitness, Shoaib may be a bit down but he is totally committed and is improving day by day," Afridi said.
"I won't be surprised if he is back at his brilliant best at the World Cup," he said ahead of Pakistan's first warm-up game against Bangladesh at Mirpur on Tuesday.
The sub-continental tracks are known to assist slow bowlers and Afridi said his side could go with an extra spinner in the World Cup, starting here on February 19.
"The playing conditions would be quite different to what we encountered during our tour of New Zealand. Here we can explore the idea of playing an extra specialist spinner," Afridi said.
Along with two specialist spinners in Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman in the 15-member squad, Pakistan can also rely on Afridi and all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez to add variety to their spin attack.
Afridi, however, rubbished the notion that Pakistan are going to the World Cup with a weakened pace attack and said his fast bowlers are capable of coming out with flying colours.
Pakistan's pace-attack, to be spearheaded by Akhtar, includes Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq and rookie pacer Junaid Khan, who replaced an unfit left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir in the 15-member squad.
"Besides Akhtar, we have Umar Gul who is a valuable player and match winner. I don't think that there is any cause for concern. Our team is shaping up well and the boys are all highly motivated to give their best in the World Cup," he said.
Although Pakistan are going into the World Cup with a morale-boosting ODI series victory over New Zealand but the spot-fixing scandal has left them shaken.
However, a confident Afridi said that he had full faith on his teammates and the side would just need to click together.
"I have complete confidence in my boys because each and everyone of them is a match-winner. They need to click and I'm sure they will do that in the World Cup," he said.
Pakistan play England at Fatullah on Friday in their second warm-up game before starting their World Cup campaign against Kenya in Hambantota, Sri Lanka on February 23.
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