Coach happy with Pakistan not among favorites for World Cup
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Head coach Waqar Younis is happy Pakistan is not among the favorites for the World Cup and said Saturday it will keep his team focused on next month’s event without any added pressure.
Pakistan was not among the top teams at the 2011 World Cup but went on to reach the semifinals before losing to eventual champion India.
“To be honest, it’s a big pressure of being favorites,” Younis told reporters. “There are teams like Australia and South Africa which are accustomed to playing on bouncy wickets (of Australia and New Zealand) and are probably more favorites than us.”
Pakistan’s four-day training camp concluded in Lahore on Friday and it will leave for New Zealand next Tuesday to play a two-match one-day international series before flying to Australia.
Pakistan got a setback as Junaid Khan suffered a hamstring injury during training last Thursday, but the Pakistan Cricket Board said the left-arm fast bowler will accompany the team to New Zealand next Tuesday.
“We had problems with our fast bowlers for the last few months and of course the recent episode with Junaid is a setback,” Younis said. “All the bowlers will have to share the workload until the World Cup and probably that’s the way to get the best combination.”
Younis himself has some bitter memories of the World Cup as he had to fly back home just before the 1992 event in Australia due to injury and Pakistan went on to win the title.
“The World Cup has never been so much kind to me, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I have been involved with the Pakistan team in so many World Cups that it’s hard to keep count of it. We have some sweet memories too as we played in the 1999 final and then in the semifinals in 2011.”
Pakistan will be without suspended offspinner Saeed Ajmal while Younis wanted another suspended offspinner Mohammad Hafeez to go through his official retesting of the bowling action before Pakistan’s crunch opening group match against archrival India on Feb. 14.
Hafeez had been included in the 15-man World Cup squad and if he doesn’t clear his retesting he will play as a batsman.
Pakistan has never beaten India in a World Cup match, but Younis said it’s good that both teams were competing against each other early in the tournament.
“I look at it in another way, if we win (against India) our morale will fly high,” he said. “Our target is to hit form before the World Cup and whichever team hits the form, it will be ideal for them.”