Lahore: Pakistani cricket hero Wasim Akram on Monday urged players, fans and the media to move on from recent high-profile problems and get behind the country to win the 2011 World Cup.
“Let’s forget what problems we’ve been going through recently and with a positive frame of mind support the Pakistan team to win next year’s World Cup,” Wasim said in a rallying call during a ceremony unveiling the trophy.
Pakistan has been blighted by a spot-fixing crisis, player suspensions and poor governance, with one-day captain Shahid Afridi expressing a lack of confidence in preparations for the mega event.
Three key players -- Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer -- were provisionally suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC) over accusations of spot-fixing during the tour to England in the summer.
The trio appear before a ICC code of conduct tribunal in Doha, Qatar next month and face severe punishment, including lengthy bans.
Key players Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik have also courted suspicion and not been cleared by the under fire Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for recent tours.
Their participation in the February 19-April 2 World Cup looks uncertain.
Wasim, who finished as the best player of the tournament when Pakistan won its only World Cup in Australia 18 years ago, acknowledged the build-up had been far from ideal.
“Problems have certainly hurt the team’s preparations, but Pakistan is one team which can beat any team in the world on its day,” he said.
“Their resilience is tremendous and they can come out of any worse situation and win a match,” said Wasim, who played 104 Tests and 352 one-day matches for cricket-mad Pakistan.
He praised the team for showing “great resilience” by winning two of the five matches against South Africa last month.
“They could do the same in the World Cup provided players, selectors and the PCB rally behind the captain and play for the country.
“For the sake of Pakistan, every player has to back the captain, play as a unit, and not only fans, but the media should also back them to win.”
Wasim tipped India as favourites to win the event, to be hosted jointly by Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan was also to have been a World Cup host but lost that right over fears about security after an armed ambush last year on the Sri Lankan team.
“I think for the first time Australia will not be the top favourites,” said Wasim. “To me, India is the top favourite to win, while Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also among the favourites.”