Pak team leaves for NZ sans Afridi and four others

Karachi: Pakistan cricket team sans its captain Shahid Afridi and four other senior players, Younis Khan, Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq, has left for Auckland on a 40-day tour of New Zealand.

Afridi and the other four players, who did not board the flight to New Zealand on Friday night along with the rest of the squad, have been permitted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to go to Malaysia for a World Cup related commercial shoot and they will join the team in Hong Kong on way to Auckland.

This tour of New Zealand, where Pakistan would play three T20 matches, two Tests and six ODIs, would be their final opportunity to prepare themselves for upcoming 2011 World Cup, as it is their last international outing before the mega-event to be held from February 19.

Team manager Intikhab Alam told reporters that he was confident that the tour will go off well as presently there was no issue of discipline in the side.

“There is complete harmony and no disciplinary issues at all in this team and that is why I am confident that we can do well on the tour,” he said.

Pakistan team coach Waqar Younis, however, did not speak to the media and rushed into the airport terminal building to avoid the television cameras and the reporters.

Ten players and eight officials left on Friday night.

Intikhab said that the players had been advised to put the spot-fixing issues aside and focus on their cricket as the World Cup was round the corner.

“There is lot happening on the sidelines but our job is to play good cricket and try to beat New Zealand in their own backyard. They are always a dangerous side at home but their recent crushing defeats to India is something we can build on,” he said.

The former Test captain declined to comment on questions about Salman Butt`s upcoming hearing or the delay in the selection of the World Cup probables because of clearance issues with some players.

“I would not like to respond to these questions because they would be best answered by the board and selectors. My job is focus on team affairs,” said Intikhab.

Intikhab said that the selectors and team management were trying to give equal opportunities to new players and provide them exposure but it was up to them to cement their places.

“We have talent in this team for any form of the game and I am sure all the hard work we put into training in the camp will pay dividends in New Zealand and help us prepare properly for the World Cup,” Intikhab added.