Pakistan needs Asif to beat India, says new coach Intikhab Alam (Interview)

October 25th, 2008 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Karachi, Oct 25 (IANS) Pakistan’s newly-appointed coach Intikhab Alam believes his team needs to attain full strength to be able to beat ‘vastly-improved’ India on home soil in what is an eagerly-awaited series early next year.Intikhab, a former Pakistan captain, told IANS in an interview Saturday that once Pakistan has all its key players fully fit and available for national duty, it will be in a good position to beat India.

“India is a vastly improved side, there shouldn’t be any doubt about it,” he said. “Beating them would be tough but we can achieve it if our side is at full strength for the series,” he stressed.

Intikhab believes Pakistan will desperately need the services of its dope-tainted pacer Mohammad Asif, who is currently battling to avoid a ban over a positive drugs test.

“Asif is a match-winner and if he is back by the time when play India, I will be very confident about chances of winning the series,” he said.

Asif, 25, tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone during the Indian Premier League (IPL) held in April-June this year and has since been suspended from all forms of cricket. He faces a possible two-year ban from international cricket since the IPL is sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and any ban would automatically be adopted by the Pakistan Cricket Board as well.

The Sheikhupura-born pacer also tested positive for nandrolone in 2006, along with fellow paceman Shoaib Akhtar. He was banned for one year and Akhtar for two, but the bans were overturned on appeal. Asif further faces a possible ban or fine from the PCB after he was detained in Dubai, while returning from the IPL, on charges of possessing an illegal drug. He was held for 19 days before police deported him.

Intikhab, however, is hopeful that Asif will be cleared of the charges in time to make his return to the Pakistan team ahead of the home series against India.

The Indians are scheduled to arrive here early January for three Tests, five One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 International from Jan 13 to Feb 19.

Intikhab, 66, is hopeful that Pakistan’s three-match ODI series in Abu Dhabi next month against the West Indies will serve as a launch pad for the preparations for the home series against India. The one-day series will be played Nov 12-16.

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