Pakistan underline match focus in New Zealand
Auckland: The Pakistan cricket team arrived in New Zealand on Sunday determined to focus on the game and reluctant to talk about the corruption accusations swirling around the team.
Pakistan will play three Twenty20 matches followed by a Test and one-day series against New Zealand over the next seven weeks in a final build-up to the World Cup starting in India on February 19.
But they are without Test captain Salman Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, who have been suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and are under investigation over spot-fixing allegations.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has also banned its players from social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, in an attempt to maintain discipline and eliminate further avenues where controversies may arise.
Team manager Intikhab Alam said the players on the New Zealand tour had been made aware of the standards expected of them.
“Everybody’s been briefed, everybody’s very clear in their minds what is expected from management, what is expected from the players as well. I have no doubt in my mind we cannot afford any more such unfortunate incidents,” he said.
“They understand what we expect from them, what the country expects from them, what the board expects from them.”
Pakistan arrived on the back of drawing two Tests and narrowly losing a one-day series 2-3 against South Africa while New Zealand are in one of their worst-ever slumps, having lost their last 11 one-day matches -- four against Bangladesh and five against India.
“South Africa’s probably one of the best teams at the moment, so it was a morale booster after all that we went through,” coach Waqar Younis said.
Younis said that given New Zealand’s recent record, Pakistani supporters would expect his side to do well although he expected New Zealand to be much tougher at home than they were on the subcontinent.
“It’s always been a tough time for them on the subcontinent and this time they didn’t really play the best of their cricket,” he said.
“This is an opportunity for us also but we don’t really want to forget that New Zealand in their own country, they are a very fine side. We’ve got to make sure we do the basics right and try to win the maximum we can.”
Pakistan play the first of the three Twenty20 matches against New Zealand in Auckland on December 26 before playing two Tests and six one-dayers.
New Zealand Cricket has launched a review of the national side because of its poor results in recent months.
A report is expected in the next few days with media speculation that it could lead to a shake-up in the selection and coaching strategies.
Former India coach and New Zealand opening batsman John Wright is seen as the public’s favourite to replace Mark Greatbatch as coach and captain Daniel Vettori is tipped to lose his role as a selector.