Last chance for me, Afridi and team to do nation proud: Waqar

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LAHORE: Pakistan team’s head coach Waqar Younus said on Friday that the World T20 in India provides, perhaps, the last opportunity for him, captain Shahid Afridi and the entire team to give their best and win the hearts of the nation with their performance in the mega event.

“It is tremendously good news that we are going for the big event because our non-participation would have had adverse effects on our cricket in the days to come,” said Waqar while speaking at a press conference just hours after the Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali gave the go ahead to the Pakistan team to go to India for the ICC World T20. “It is good that the security issue has been settled.”

The Pakistan team was to leave for India via Dubai Friday night and it will reach in Kolkata by Saturday to play a warm-up match against Sri Lanka on Sunday, before playing the first match of the World Cup against a qualifier on March 16.

“This T20 World Cup is also a huge challenge for me as we are not playing good cricket for the past six months and I definitely feel the pain of those bad performances,” said Waqar candidly. “I never shy away from accepting challenges but, unfortunately, this time I could not achieve the targets.

“The World T20 is perhaps the last opportunity for all of us to give our best and we will try not to disappoint the nation.”

When reminded that Pakistan could not fare well at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and things are not much different now with the team’s chances of doing well in India quite grim, Waqar said: “We should keep the playing conditions of the One-day World Cup and the World T20 in mind. We will be playing in the Sub-continent this time where the conditions will be suitable for us and the situation will be much better.

“Look, it is just a matter of clicking. One good bowling spell, one good innings from Afridi, Hafeez or anyone and the team can rejuvenate itself,” he said.

Commenting on the conditions in Bangladesh, where Pakistan fared poorly in the recently concluded Asia Cup, Waqar said they were quite different to those that the team will now counter in India and said this fact gives him lot of confidence about the team’s performance in the World T20.

However, he admitted that the preparations for the World Cup have not been ideal because of the uncertain situation about Pakistan’s participation and also in the backdrop of the team’s poor show in the Asia Cup. “But we are determined to play our best game and for that we have to lift ourselves for the big show,” added the former captain.

The head coach, however, refused to single out captain Afridi for poor show with the bat: “Our entire top order has struggled in the recent matches, so why just pick on Afridi?” he asked. “This is the best available team and we have to take our best shot by lifting our game in a collective manner.”

Waqar also played down talk of the current security situation having a negative impact on the team’s performance. “When we toured India in 1996 and again in 1999, things were far worse than they are today,” he recalled. “But we performed well on those tours and won the Test series. We just have to play with a positive frame of mind and the results will come.”

He emphasised that the team spirit is excellent at the moment and the players are charged up for the mega event. “When PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan offered the players on Thursday to opt out if any of them were bothered by the security situation in India, every player expressed his determination and desire to go to the World Cup and do his best.”

He said some changes in batting department had been made by bringing in Khalid Latif and Ahmed Shehzad and hopefully the combination will click. “I hope the playing conditions both in Kolkata and Mohali will be better for our batsmen and they will put up a good total on the board and then bowlers will click too,” he said.

Waqar, one of the bowling greats of the game, said his advice for the batsmen was to play aggressive cricket.

“As you saw in the recently concluded series between Australia and South Africa that targets of 180 and 200 were chased, it is only possible if the batsmen play aggressively and with a positive mind,” he asserted.

“In Asia Cup the first six overs remained vital and we will try to give our best in the first six overs – either batting or bowling – to wrest the imitative in the World T20 matches.”

Playing down the absence of a specialist spinner in the team, Waqar said Afridi is a specialist spinner while Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz could assist him well.

He also strongly negated the impression that the captain and coach had any differences whatsoever and added that it was unfortunate that such gloomy picture was being painted by the media. “It is time for everyone — the players, the officials and the media — to join hands with each other and not to appear like a disjointed force,” emphasised Waqar.

About the match against India at Kolkata scheduled for March 19, where Pakistan has a good winning record in Tests and ODIs, Waqar said it did not matter much as this will be the first time the two teams would play a T20 match at the Eden Gardens. “No doubt India has a good team but it is time for us to play the match against them as true patriots and draw the Pakistanism from within us,” he said.

To a question, Waqar said both the pools were tough but as Pakistan will be playing in the Sub-continent, the presence of Australia or New Zealand in the pool should not really bother the team too much.

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