ABBOTTABAD: Legendary fast bowler Wasim Akram has declared that the Pakistan team is favourite for the forthcoming ICC Cricket Champions Trophy due to its superior pace attack.
The high-profile ICC event is scheduled to be held in England from June 6.
Talking to reporters at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium during the national camp here on Saturday, Wasim said Pakistan’s main weapon in the upcoming event would be their powerful pace attack comprising young and experienced fast bowlers who would give the squad an edge over other competing teams.
The total number of camp trainees here reached 20 on Saturday which included 15 members of Pakistan squad plus five fast bowlers who remain under Wasim’s supervision after being selected through the ‘King of Speed’ programme.
The camp which commenced on May 2 will conclude on May 8 and the team will soon afterwards leave for the UK via Karachi where it will play two ODI matches each against Scotland and Ireland. Pakistan will also play a warm-up match against the West Indies on May 30 before launching the Champions Trophy campaign.
Hailing the PCB decision for holding the camp in Abbottabad, which is around 4,120 feet above sea level, Wasim said that the conditions here would benefit the players due to its similarity with the weather conditions in England.
“The stadium’s wicket is very helpful for the seamers and the weather conditions are more than perfect here,” Wasim remarked.
The Abbottabad stadium is surrounded by lush green hills and the heavy, seaming conditions are ideal for pacers to swing the ball besides helping them to build on their stamina for longer spells of bowling at this high altitude.
Pakistan’s former captain sounded quite satisfied with the performance of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Umar Amin and others. He also specially mentioned the hardwork put in by newest pace sensation Ahmed Jamal who topped the ‘King of Speed’ trials in Karachi last month by bowling at 143kph.
Wasim predicted that Ahmed would soon will be part of national team but currently needs more first class and domestic cricket experience in order to gain more control on his line and length.
Meanwhile, young middle-order batsman Asad Shafiq, while speaking to Dawn, said in the absence of senior batsman Younis Khan, he would be facing a lot of pressure to consolidate and carry the innings during the Champions Trophy matches.
“We are going to prepare ourselves to win our first fixture in Scotland and also to maintain the tempo in the warm-up matches before entering the Champions Trophy battle,” he said.
Pakistan cricketers are undergoing hectic physical exercises and nets training for almost four to five hours daily under head coach Dav Whatmore, fielding coach Julien Fountain, former captain Javed Miandad, bowling coach Mohammad Akram and assistant coach Shahid Aslam.
Miandad, while lauding the PCB decision to set up camp here, said the grassy ground at the stadium encouraged the fielders to dive and take difficult catches which could prove effective in the upcoming ICC event.
Shaukat Gul Khan Jadoon, the administrator of the ground and also the head of a leading Cricket Academy here, is providing back-up players and ground staff to the camp.
Giving his opinion, Jadoon said in past too, the camps set up in Abbottabad helped the team in producing outstanding results in international events.
The national team players are residing in the Pakistan Army School of Physical Fitness, Kakul, equipped with a highly sophisticated gym and trainers.
Extraordinary security arrangements have been made for the camp and several policemen are guarding the area throughout.
Ricky Ponting, the outgoing Australian batsman, has expressed that Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram were two of the most difficult bowlers he faced in his long international career.
The former Australia captain announced his retirement from Test cricket before the start of the third Test of the three-match series against South Africa at Perth, after a run of poor performances in the competition. The Tasmanian had already called it a day from the limited-over sport earlier this year.
The 37-year-old cricketer could not make an impression in his last Test as well, scoring just 12 runs in the two innings, failing to help his team save the series, losing the last match by a massive margin of 309 runs.
While talking to the media representatives after the match, the legendary batsman expressed that Ambrose and Akram were the toughest bowlers for him to cope with. Ponting expressed that the lanky West Indian had an immaculate line and length, which made him a great bowler.
“I think Curtly Ambrose and Wasim Akram were probably the two outstanding quicks that I faced, and for different reasons. Ambrose for his ability to just make you feel like you couldn’t score off him for long periods of time, never felt like he was going to bowl you a bad ball,” said the former Aussie skipper.
With more than 27 thousand runs at the highest stage of the game and 71 centuries, Ponting is surely one of the greatest batsmen of all times. On top of that, the Tasmanian is considered as one of the most successful international captains, having led the Kangaroos to consecutive World Cup victories in 2003 and 2007.
Ponting also commented on the former Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram, and said that the left-armer was a phenomenal bowler because of his ability to bowl magical deliveries at any stage of an innings.
“Akram for the exact opposite, you could get a few runs off him, but you just knew there was an unplayable ball around the corner, be it with an old ball or with a new ball,” the great cricketer added.
Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram on Thursday described the Group Two of the ongoing World T20’s Super Eight stage as the “group o death”.
India, Pakistan, Australia and South Africa comprise the Group Two, while defending champions England, hosts Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies have been drawn in the Group One of the Super Eight stage.
All the four teams drafted in Group Two topped their respective groups in the league phase of the global event, and are unbeaten thus far. India got the better of Afghanistan and England while Pakistan defeated New Zealand and Bangladesh in the Group D fixtures.
“Group 2 is surely the group of death,” said Akram while speaking to media reporters yesterday. “India and Pakistan have showed their might in this format and have really performed well in the league stages.”
“Australia are a top notch side…They always rise to the occasion and that makes them a dangerous side,” said the legendary Pakistan pacer of George Bailey and his men, who defeated semi-professional Irish outfit and one of the tournament favourites West Indies in their Group B fixtures, in the lead up to the Super Eight Stage.
Akram though urged the Australians to improve their middle-order batting if they are aiming to lift their maiden World Cup trophy.
South Africa is the fourth team in the death group and made it to the Super Eight stage after crushing Zimbabwe and hosts Sri Lanka in the league phase. Though they have notoriously choked in big game, especially in the global tournaments, Akram feels Proteas’ excellent fielding could galvanize their performance any time, on any stage.
“South Africans have good experience of the conditions…Several of them play the IPL,” the veteran swing bowler added further.
Top two teams from both groups will qualify for the tournament semi-finals. Whilst Sri Lanka and West Indies are being anticipated as the qualifiers from the Group One, Akram said it was difficult to pick the favourites from Group Two.
“It’s really tough to pick which two teams will make the last four from group 2. But one thing is for sure, the champion team will almost certainly come from this pool,” said the cricketer turned commentator.
Legendary cricketer and former Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram, is delighted to see Yuvraj Singh successfully battling against cancer and making a return at the global arena.
The all-rounder from Punjab was out of international cricket since the series against West Indies last year and also missed the Indian Premier League’s (IPL’s) fifth edition, where he was supposed to lead the Pune Warriors India.
The stylish middle-order batsman returned to the world-stage during the just-finished T20 series against New Zealand , scoring a 26-ball 34, which included a boundary and a couple of massive hits out of the park.
The all-rounder is also an integral part of India’s World T20 plans and will have to perform well with both, bat and ball if the Men in Blue have any chance of regaining the title. Yuvraj has a tendency of delivering the goods on big stages, having received the Player of the Tournament award in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011.
Wasim is jubilant to see the hard-hitting batsman back in the Indian colours but feels that he will have to work extremely hard to get back to his best.
“It was great to see Yuvraj back in the field. I saw his quick-fire 34 off 26 balls against the Kiwis in Chennai. Typically, Yuvraj connected a few lusty blows but his timing has to get sweeter. I am sure everyone’s going to watch him closely in Sri Lanka,” Akram said.
India are currently going through a dilemma regarding the team selection, with their four bowlers not looking at the peak of their game at the moment, especially after their warm-up fixture against Pakistan, where the Men in Blue failed to defend a big total.
Wasim is of the view that Mahendra Singh Dhoni possesses the luxury of batsmen who can role their arm over with the ball.
“For a 20-20 game, India have several all-rounders and that will enable Dhoni pick four specialist bowlers and seven batsmen,” the great cricketer added. “The fact that Sehwag, Raina, Yuvraj and Kohli are decent bowlers is a great bonus for Team India.”
Legendary pacer Wasim Akram feels the negative mindset of Pakistan batsmen is the main reason behind their poor performance in limited-over games of late.
“I think the team management, including the coach, also needs to install confidence in the players. They need to tell these players to go out and play their natural game,” Akram told Geo News channel.
Wasim Akram’s comments came after Pakistan faced a four-wicket defeat at the hands of Australia in the opening One Day International of the three-match series, played at Sharjah, UAE, on Tuesday.
In the series opener, the Pakistan batsmen once again failed to put up a par total on the board, as the whole team was bowled out for just 198 in 45.1 overs. Seven batsmen fell for single digit scores.
The Men in Green looked in a position to post a respectable total after reaching 160 for four in the 36th over, courtesy Asad Shafiq (56) and Umar Akmal (52). But they failed to cross the 200-run mark, after losing their last six wickets for just 38 runs in the next 10 overs. The meagre total was comfortably chased down by the mighty Aussies, in the penultimate over, with four wickets to spare.
Wasim Akram, the veteran of 104 Tests and 356 ODIs, noticed that the Pakistan batsmen were afraid of playing shots during the powerplays. He urged the top order of Pakistan to change its mindset and play aggressive cricket, at least in the mandatory powerplay.
“The power play period must be utilised fully. I feel our batsmen are scared to play their natural and are getting into trouble,” said the left-arm pacer.
It may be noted here that on Tuesday, Pakistan lost three wickets in the mandatory powerplay and three in the batting powerplay.
After an impressive 2011 season, Pakistan cricket team has been struggling to impress in the limited-overs format since the start of this year. They faced a 4-0 whitewash at the hands of England in February and recently lost an ODI series to Sri Lanka with a 3-1 margin. Batting has been their major let down in both the series.
The second ODI between Pakistan and Australia will be played at Abu Dhabi on August 31.
Townsville, Australia: Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram on Sunday lavished praise on India U-19 skipper Unmukt Chand for guiding his team to its third World Cup title here today and said the opener is ready to play for the senior side.
Describing Chand’s unbeaten 111-run knock as the best innings in under-19 cricket, Akram said, “As a whole package, he is excellent. This guy is very special and I hope the Indian selectors are looking at him because Ian Chappell (former Australian captain) has been saying, we have been saying that Chand is ready for India.”
“It’s been our privilege to see the innings played today by Chand. It’s the best innings in U-19 cricket that I have ever seen. I think few players are ready to play for India ‘A’ or may be for the Indian team, Sandeep Sharma and Unmukt Chand. Chand has already got picked for India ‘A’ touring New Zealand in September-October,” he said.
Chand led from the front as India beat defending champions Australia by six wickets at Tony Ireland Stadium. This was India U-19s’ first triumph after Mohammed Kaif and Virat Kohli led their teams to win in 2000 and 2008.
Akram also praised the effort of glovesman Smit Patel, who hit 62, and in the company of Chand, overhauled the target of 226 on a bouncy strip with 14 balls to spare.
“It was a clever move by the captain or the coach to send him up the order in place of Akshdeep Nath, who had an average tournament. Smit is a busy player. He takes singles and hit boundaries. Overall, he supported the captain well and rotated the strike.
“That’s where he is very useful and Chand, all the way, was very calm and composed. There was as such no pressure on him and this guy (Smit) helped that cause as well,” added the legendary paceman.
Akram said that winning the World Cup on Australian soil counts as an ultimate feeling. “This is ultimate…to win the World Cup and that too in Australia where the wickets help the fast bowlers. I think they came out on top.”
Courtesy: NDTV SPORTS
The former Test captain, Wasim Akram, has come out in support of Umar Gul and thinks that the right-arm fast bowler can still be an asset for Pakistan, if he enhances his ability of adjusting to different formats of the game.
The 28-year-old cricketer was expected to be Pakistan’s spearhead, once Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were banned from competitive cricket in 2010. The fast bowler from Peshawar however, has been a real disappointment and extremely inconsistent, although the right-armer has won matches for the country on occasions.
Gul has been absolutely brilliant in the shorter formats of the game, especially in T20 cricket, playing a major role in his country’s title triumph in the ICC World T20 2009, which was held in England. His performances in Test cricket however, have been found wanting more often than not.
In the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka, the fast bowler could only manage one scalp in the two Tests, playing a role in his team’s downfall in the series.
Akram is of the view that the skinny fast bowler still has a bright future in international cricket but urged him to work on the mental aspect of his game and bowl according to the format he is playing in.
“I don’t think Umar Gul is a spent force. He is a quality bowler. His main problem is that he is unable to define a role for himself in the team. He is unable to adjust his bowling according to the different formats of the game,” the former captain expressed.
The former left-arm fast bowler appreciates the cricketer’s performances in T20 cricket but feels that Gul fails to adapt to the five-day format.
“He is bowling the same in Tests and the same in Twenty20 and that is hurting his performance,” Wasim said.
Like most international cricketers, Akram thinks that Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game and a player must prove his ability on the ultimate stage of cricket.
He added, “The bowlers will have to realise that Test cricket is still the ultimate test for any bowler. Unless you are successful in this format you can’t be really be regarded as world class.”
Wasim Akram, the former Test skipper, is happy with Pakistan’s squad for the ICC World T20 2012 and believes that the senior players can help the country clinch the title for the second time.
Historically, the Green Shirts have done remarkably well in the glamorous tournament, being the only team to have qualified for the semi-finals of all the three events held so far.
The selectors gave chances to a number of young cricketers for the T20 series against Sri Lanka, held last month. However, they have opted for experienced cricketers like Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir and Kamran Akmal for the all-important competition, which will be played in Sri Lanka in September/October.
Some of the game’s pundits have slammed the policy of ignoring the younger players like Hammad Azam, Khalid Latif and Haris Sohail, who have been doing well in domestic cricket.
However, Akram, who is amongst the legends of the game, praised the management’s strategy and feels that big players are required for big events. Akram thinks that the trio, which is returning to international cricket after a long time, can turn the tables for Pakistan in the competition.
The former Test captain is of the opinion that the wicketkeeper/batsman, Kamran Akmal, is one of the top batsmen in the shortest format of the game.
The former left-arm fast bowler said, “This is a very good move by coach Dav Whatmore and the PCB. Pakistan are targeting their second title and players like Nazir, Razzaq and Akmal are the right choice over the youngsters. Nazir is very consistent, Razzaq is also doing well in County cricket, and in my view Kamran is the best opener in T20 cricket.”
Some of the Pakistani batsmen have been criticized in the past for their poor strike-rate and Wasim wants a changed approach from the Green Shirts in the forthcoming tournament.
“Pakistan have to change their mind-set in this format of the game. A strike-rate of 90 is good in one-day cricket but for T20 you need a strike-rate of 130-plus,” Akram mentioned.
The Men in Green will gain great practice before the tournament, when they take on Australia for a three-match T20 series in UAE.
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The former Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram, thinks that Shahid Khan Afridi was the best choice to lead Pakistan in the forthcoming ICC World T20 2012, but said that Mohammad Hafeez can also turn out to be a good leader in future.
Boom Boom was replaced by Misbah ul Haq last year as the limited-overs captain, after his differences with the then Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt.
The cricketer from Sargodha took charge of the national team in the T20 format last month, starting his stint by leveling the T20 series in Sri Lanka.
The former Pakistan captain believes that Afridi did a great job in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, helping the Green Shirts reach the semi-final of the tournament and also finishing the tournament with the most number of wickets, along with India’s Zaheer Khan.
Akram expressed that Hafeez is still inexperienced at the ultimate level of the game and thinks that the board should have utilized the all-rounder’s abilities. The legendary cricketer slammed the authorities’ short-sightedness and negliegence of Pakistan’s interests in the sport.
“I think it is too early to name Mohammad Hafeez the captain of the side. You can’t ignore Afridi’s experience,” the former Test captain said. “He also led the team to the semi-finals in the 2011 World Cup against India and should have been given another stint at the top. But that’s Pakistan cricket for you!”
Akram however, believes that Hafeez is a brilliant cricketer, possessing the ability to deliver the goods at the world-stage, both as a player and as a captain.
While talking about Pakistan’s chances in the mega event, the former great said that the Green Shirts have a massive chance to lift the illustrious tournament for the second time, taking into account Pakistan’s depth in both departments of the game.
“Hafeez has the potential to handle pressure, he is a good all-rounder and I believe he can do well as long as he enjoys his game and remains positive. I think Pakistan have a very good chance to win the tournament and bring the Cup home once again,” he thinks.