New Delhi: His absence from the World Cup warm-up games is not going to affect India spearhead Zaheer Khan`s performance in the main tournament, feels former Pakistan captain Imran Khan.
"Zaheer Khan is accomplished, experienced and at the peak of his career. Considering that he`s been through Test and ODI series, it`s ok to have him not play warm ups," Imran said.
"If you have an experienced bowler like Zaheer I would give him a new ball in the nets and ask him to bowl five over`s at the stumps just to keep him physically fit," he told a news channel during a show that also featured former Australia and West Indies captains Allan Border and Vivian Richards.
Asked about Zaheer going into the World Cup without enough match practice, Border said the injury-prone left-arm pacer needs to be managed judiously.
"Given his history of injuries, going to this sort of tournament, he needs to be managed very well," Border said.
Asked about the likely favourites to lift the title, they felt India and Sri Lanka have the best chance.
"I think India has got a very good side. They are playing at home. They know the conditions well. I think they have been playing good cricket in the last couple of years. I will be worried about Sri Lanka as well. They are playing a lot of their games in those conditions too," Border said.
Imran nodded in agreement.
"India and Sri Lanka, they are the two favorites, but once you get into the quarterfinal stage, no one is underdog.”
"I wouldn`t rule out Pakistan entirely. I think Umer Gul has done well in ODIs. In batting they have a defensive batsman like Younis Khan and hard hitters like Abdul Razzak.”
"Saheed Afridi can play a cameo and change the game. So I think Pakistan has the ability.”
When talks veered towards Australia, Border, who guided the team to its maiden title in 1987, said people are reading too much into their Ashes defeat.
"I think a lot of people are confusing Test cricket to one day cricket. Yes, we lost in India recently and the Ashes against England, but that was Test cricket, in one day cricket we have maintained a decent consistent level.”
"I, though, admit that Australia is not the best team in the tournament," Border said.
Richards seconded Border`s views, saying that the defending champions have some talented players.
"As Allan said, they are very much in touch where one day cricket is concerned, and I guess, they have got some really talented players.”
"When you look at the team that`s just beaten England 6-1, it sends a message that Australia is not down and out.”
On the spot-fixing scandal, Imran felt the Pakistan Cricket Board and the ICC did not not have any option.
"If you are caught taking money for bowling no-ball, I think it`s the punishment they deserved. It`s sad for Pakistan cricket and for those two bowlers."
"I think the punishment is better for the future of Pakistan cricket."