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Pakistan pin hopes on struggling next generation

Pakistan will pin their hopes on the next generation after their World Cup campaign ended with a quarter-final exit to Australia but with departing skipper Misbah-ul-Haq warning the team is not up to international scratch.

Pakistan, the 1992 champions, lost their first two matches to India and the West Indies before staging a comeback with four consecutive wins to earn a berth in the quarter-finals.

But Pakistan went down by six wickets against Australia in Adelaide, a defeat which critics argue exposed the weaknesses of the players and system.

None of Pakistan`s younger batsmen -- Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood -- could match the guile of 40-year-old Misbah who was the main run-getter with 350 in seven matches.

"It`s necessary that the younger batsmen take responsibility," said Misbah, who quit ODI cricket after Friday`s defeat.

"They are talented players but maybe they were not made responsible enough to help the team."

Akmal is the most talented of them all but he failed to turn his full potential into performances, scoring only 164 runs in seven innings.

His dismissal on Saturday, giving a simple catch to Aaron Finch off part-timer Glenn Maxwell, highlighted his shortcomings.

Shehzad managed 222 at the tournament while Maqsood scored 124 in five innings.

"If our cricket is to match international standards then our youngsters have to work hard," said Misbah. 

"They are the best performers in domestic cricket so they have to take the mantle from us.

"Besides batting, fitness and fielding are two key areas where our players have to work very hard because they are not up to international standards," said Misbah.

Pakistan`s preparations for the World Cup were badly hit by the suspension of ace spinner Saeed Ajmal for an illegal bowling action and injuries to pacemen Umar Gul and Junaid Khan and spinning all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez (also suspended for his action).

Former captain Wasim Akram said the system is so faulty that there are no back-ups.

"When Ajmal and Junaid were out, we did not have back-up bowlers and that hit Pakistan badly," said Wasim.

"Until and unless we put our house in order we are not going to stand up and be counted against top teams like Australia, India and South Africa."

The return of Junaid and possibly of Mohammad Aamir, who started playing domestic cricket last week after his five-year ban for spot-fixing was relaxed, will strengthen the bowling.

But it`s the batting woes that need attention, a problem Misbah hoped would be solved sooner rather than later.

"Maybe the lack of international exposure was hurting the batsmen so I have suggested to the Pakistan Cricket Board that they arrange more and more cricket for these youngsters because batsmen can only get better with exposure," said Misbah.

Pakistan`s most pressing task will be to pick up a new captain for the one-day team.

Hafeez would be one contender as is Shehzad but both have their problems of their own.

Hafeez`s bowling action was deemed illegal in November while Shehzad has a history of disciplinary problems.

Former captain Shoaib Malik and senior batsman Younis Khan have also shown desire to lead Pakistan`s one-day team but the PCB last year said it wanted a young leader to follow Misbah.

"I think Pakistan should start building a team for the next World Cup now," said Misbah.

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