Pakistan can improve World Cup chances, says Afridi

October 19th, 2010 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Omar Khalid
Karachi, Oct 19 (IANS) Skipper Shahid Afridi wants Pakistan to put its preparations for World Cup 2011 back on track by winning the forthcoming one-day series against South Africa in United Arab Emirates (UAE) next month.

The 1992 champions find their cricket in a mess just five months before the World Cup gets under way in Dhaka and will need to really work hard in the lead up to the quadrennial spectacle if they are to be counted among the leading title contenders.

Three of their key players are under suspension because of their alleged role in a match-fixing scandal while the country’s cricket chiefs have been told by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to put their house in order within 30 days or face sanctions.

To say that Pakistan cricket is going through a difficult phase would be an understatement. However, Afridi, the man who will lead them in the World Cup, believes that his team can still go on to win the world crown in the final in Mumbai next April.

His mantra is simple.

Afridi wants his boys to gel together and pick up as many wins as possible ahead of the World Cup to boost their confidence.

“It’s all about confidence,” he said Tuesday. “We can improve our World Cup chances by boosting our confidence and should do that by winning matches against South Africa and later against New Zealand,” he said.

Pakistan will play two twenty20 Internationals against South Africa in Dubai later this month before taking on the Proteas in a five-match One-day International series in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The limited-overs matches will be followed by two Tests before the Pakistanis fly for New Zealand to play a full series, including T20 games, ODIs and Tests.

Afridi is hoping that his team will make the most of the twin assignments in the UAE and New Zealand.

He wants Pakistan to put aside the bitter memories of an acrimonious tour of England and give their best against South Africa.

“We have to forget what happened during the tour of England,” said Afridi. “What the team desperately needs is some good results and I’m sure that if we play to our potential we can do that against South Africa.”

Pakistan lost to England in all three formats (3-1 in Tests, 3-2 in ODIs and 2-0 in T20s) during a marathon tour of England that also included a series against Australia.

Much more damaging for them was a ‘match-fixing’ scandal that resulted in the ICC suspending Test captain Salman Butt and pace spearheads Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir following allegations that they accepted bribes from match-fixers.

Pakistan will be without the tainted trio in the UAE and Afridi said that he and his team will certainly miss them.

“We are going to miss the three because they are our key players,” he stressed. “But we can’t just sit back and cry over it. We have to focus on the upcoming assignments and, thankfully, we still have several match-winners in our side.”

Afridi is confident that Pakistan’s spin attack will give the ‘hosts’ an edge on slow and turning wickets in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“Spinners will certainly be playing the major role in UAE,” said Afridi, himself an accomplished leg-spinner. “The wickets there should give them a lot of assistance.”

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