Afridi Warns World Cup Teams not to Underestimate Pakistan

Dhaka, Feb 12 , (PTI) : Pakistan cricket captain Shahid Afridi today issued a warning to the other World Cup teams, saying that none should underestimate his side as his players were ''focussed and united'' under his leadership. 

"They feel hungry to win a big event and want to play good cricket," Afridi told reporters here.

Stating that a fruitful tour of New Zealand had bolstered the side's morale, Afridi said Pakistan have left the spot-fixing scandal behind and are now eager to rebuild the team.

"I think we're really going through a very tough situation. But I am very happy because we are trying to rebuild the team and keep the morale high," said Afridi, admitting that Pakistan team was severely jolted by the spot-fixing scandal.

Three players -- former captain Salman Butt and pacers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer -- were banned for five years by the International Cricket Council for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing, which ruled them out of the World Cup, and they now also face criminal proceedings in England.

But Afridi assured that the team was now completely focussing on the upcoming sporting extravaganza, starting from February 19 in Dhaka, as the country's prestige is at stake.

"I am confident the team is in very good shape now. We all know how important the World Cup is for us and for our country. The message for other teams is that no one should underestimate us."

Confident of doing well in the mega-event, Afridi said his team was a right mix of youth and experience.

"We have a very good bunch of youngsters and some experienced players. It is good to see Kamran Akmal back in the team. Misbah-ul Haq is in good form and Younis Khan is also batting well.

"I am also very happy with our bowling. We have two genuine spinners and some good
fast bowlers, especially Shoaib Akhtar," said Afridi.

Afridi promised the fans that they would see a much improved Pakistani side during the World Cup.

"Inshallah (God willing), we will achieve our goal," he said.

Hailing manager Intikhab Alam and coach Waqar Younis, Afridi said both the former cricketers did a great job in keeping the team's spirits high amid all the controversies.

"They are really doing a very good job. They have assured the atmosphere in the dressing room is healthy. We are trying to keep the boys together as a unit."

Meanwhile, Afridi said he hoped that international cricket would return to Pakistan sooner than later.

"We are desperate to host the best teams. I am sure that will happen in the near future."

Pakistan, World Cup winners in 1992, are scheduled to play two practice matches against Bangladesh and England in Dhaka over the next few days, before taking on Kenya in their inaugural World Cup match in Hambantota, Sri Lanka on February 23.

Pakistan are in group A, along with the defending champions Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Canada, in the preliminary stage.


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