Veteran Pakistan fast bowler hoaib Akhtar, whose fitness levels are once again under the spotlight, still has enough fuel in the tank to perform well at the ICC World Cup 2011, team manager Intikhab Alam has said.
“Shoaib``s not 100 per cent fit, but even a half fit Akhtar can lift Pakistan to glory. He needs to be utilised carefully during the World Cup to get the best out of him,” Intikhab said.
“A lot could depend on the weather, the heat, the humidity as to how Shoaib is utilised by the skipper. At the moment in Bangladesh, the weather is very nice, it`s not too warm, but we`ll have to see what the weather is like in Sri Lanka in the group stages,” he added.
Whilst Pakistan are not being tipped by many pundits to bag World Cup glory on April 2 in Mumbai, Intikhab remained bullish and confident that his team would put up a good show at the mega event.
"We’ve had a couple of good training sessions since we arrived in Bangladesh. Everything is going well and according to plan. The boys are in good spirits and the fitness levels are okay. We’re all looking forward to getting started against Bangladesh," he said.
In addition to the warm up match against Bangladesh on Tuesday,Pakistan face England on February 18 at Fatullah. Intikhab said that the importance of warm up matches in such a high profile tournament could never be underestimated.
"Both matches are extremely important with regards to the build up and planning and we will be going all out to win both matches," he maintained.
Although some might argue that the warm up matches were an ideal opportunity to give some of the expected fringe players a chance, Intikhab felt that Pakistan must feature their strongest team in both the warm up matches.
"The time for experimentation is over. We have to select our best eleven players and ensure they are full of confidence going into the World Cup group matches," he said.
Spin is expected to play a crucial part in the upcoming World Cup, but Intikhab said that Pakistan would not fall into the trap of an over-reliance upon spin attacks.
“It`s all about the conditions that we encounter. We’ll take it match by match. In New Zealand (Saeed) Ajmal and (Abdul) Rehman didn`t get much of a look in, but that was largely due to the conditions that we encountered. Ajmal was an ever-present previously but it`s good that there is competition in the side and nobody`s place is guaranteed in the starting eleven,” he said.
“I expect that only two spinners will start in most matches. We are very fortunate that we have the versatile Mohammad Hafeez who can open the batting, as well as bowl his quota of overs, but I would say that Rehman and (Shahid) Afridi are the first choice spinners,” Intikhab added.