Pakistan can win World Twenty20 title, says Intikhab

March 17th, 2009 - 5:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Shoaib Akhtar By Omar Khalid
Karachi, March 17 (IANS) Coach Intikhab Alam believes Pakistan can win cricket’s World Twenty20 championship in England this June.

Intikhab said that he counts Pakistan among the biggest contenders for the title but was quick to add that his charges will have to bring a vast improvement in their fielding if they are to win the crown this time after losing to old rivals India in the final of the inaugural edition in South Africa in 2007.

“Our cricket is going through a rough phase,” said Intikhab referring to the woes of Pakistan cricket that has endured a series of controversies in recent years including a terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore earlier this month — an incident that has raised a big question mark on the future of the sport in this country.

“But we have to fight on and one way to do that is to start winning titles like the World Twenty20 Championship,” the former Pakistan captain was quoted as saying by The News.

Pakistan is trailing at the fifth spot in both the ICC Test and one-day rankings following a series of unimpressive showings in both forms of the game in recent years.

But it is regarded as a very dangerous side in the shortest version of the international game — Twenty20 Internationals. Pakistan underlined its Twenty20 strength in the inaugural championship by reaching the final two years back.

For this year’s edition too, experts believe that Pakistan will be in contention for the title. West Indian Brian Lara has in fact picked Pakistan along with India as his favourites to lift the title at Lord’s June 21.

“There is no doubt that we can win the title in England,” said Intikhab. “We have a very good and reliable batting line while our bowlers are also pretty solid for the shorter version of the game,” he added.

But the coach made it clear that Pakistan will have to achieve improvement in two key areas of the game — fielding and fitness.

“Twenty20 is a relatively new innovation but enough games have been played already, underlining the fact that the teams with a higher level of fitness and better fielding skills enjoy a clear edge in this form of the game,” said Intikhab.

The coach believes Pakistan have enough time to get better in both those areas.

“We have some one-day matches coming up but I’m sure we would find to work on raising our fitness and fielding standards,” he said.

Intikhab said that Pakistani cricketers will undergo a strenuous training camp ahead of the tournament.

He stressed that Pakistan can also raise their hopes of winning the title by ensuring that their bowlers are in peak form for the tournament.

“At first glance, twenty20 seems to be a batsman’s game,” he said. “But if you look closer, bowlers can play an equally important part. I mean if you have pacers who can bowl accurately with effective yorkers and mixing it with slower deliveries and spinners with an ability to take wickets then your chances of winning go up big time.”

Pakistan is facing a problem when it comes to quality pacers as well as spinners.

Pakistan’s key strike pacer Mohammad Asif will be unavailable for the June assignment as he is currently serving a one-year ban for doping that ends in September this year.

Shoaib Akhtar, another front-line fast bowler, is as usual facing fitness problems.

However, Intikhab said that Pakistan can raise a potent attack consisting of bowlers like Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir and Shahid Afridi - some of the success stories of the 2007 World Twenty Championship.

Pakistan is grouped with hosts England and qualifiers Netherlands in group B of the 12-nation World Twenty20 Championship to be played from June 5-21 at Lord’s, Trent Bridge and The Oval.

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