Pakistan manager just praying for no injuries

Updated: Mar 01, 2011, 09:49 AM IST

Colombo: Just keeping his players fit over the six weeks of the tournament is the biggest concern of manager Intikhab Alam as Pakistan seek to become the first Asian team to win a second World Cup.

The 1992 champions, plagued by troubles beforehand, have suddenly become one of the favourites in the tournament after beating the fancied co-hosts Sri Lanka by 11 runs on Saturday in the capital Colombo.

Having seen off Kenya too but by the much more comfortable margin of 205, Pakistan are looking one of the most in-form teams of the 14 competing on the sub-continent.

“My major concern is to make sure that they are physically fit,” Intikhab said in an interview on Monday.

Unlike several teams, particularly the West Indies, Pakistan have so far been relatively injury-free at the tournament.

Pakistan will next play Canada on Thursday followed by New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and the holders Australia in the Group A round robin matches.

“Every match is tough really. It doesn’t matter if you play against a weak team, still you have to give it your best shot and you cannot relax in this tournament,” said the former Pakistan coach who was appointed manager in 2010.

“If we keep on playing like this -- and we don’t get any injuries -- then we stand a very good chance of doing well in this World Cup.”

Pakistan have not qualified for the second round of the World Cup since they reached the final in 1999 won by Australia.

In the last World Cup, the 1992 champions suffered a humiliating defeat by non-test playing Ireland to exit at the first stage and shortly afterwards their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his Kingston hotel in Jamaica.

Despite poor fielding against Sri Lanka, Pakistan have generally shone with ball and bat, thanks chiefly to their more senior players.

All-rounder and captain Shahid Afridi has been their trump card with his leg breaks and variations, capturing nine wickets in the first two games including a career best 5-16 against Kenya.

Shoaib Akhtar has been reasonably disciplined so far while former skipper Younus Khan and the vice-captain Misbah ul Haq have chipped in too with half centuries in both games.

“It’s very good to see senior players taking responsibility and the combinations are clicking. I think this is a very healthy sign for us,” Alam said.

The team have realised that there are several areas of their game still to polish if Pakistan, plagued by a corruption scandal before the World Cup, are to repeat their 1992 triumph on April 2 in Mumbai.

“It’s all about motivation, making sure that everybody is focused on the game,” he said.

Pakistan were to have been a co-host of this tournament but unrest in the country compelled organisers to restrict the event solely to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on security grounds.

Alam believes that their prospects of lifting the trophy at the Wankhede Stadium are now brighter than even the team itself had originally thought.

“The prospects are quite bright for us the way the team has played so far in both the matches. We have to keep playing as we have done in the last two matches and we have to keep that momentum going,” he said.

Bureau Report