Team above individuals: the new Pakistan slogan

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KARACHI: A new ODI captain, a new middle-order and a renewed approach: Waqar Younis finally has the tools he had specifically sought to usher team Pakistan into a new era.

The ‘new era’ begins against supposedly the weakest Test nation, but Bangladesh have upped their pedigree a fair degree through a lionhearted World Cup campaign and are already fancying their chances of dismantling Waqar’s lot.

In their recent exchanges with The Express Tribune, both Waqar and Azhar Ali pledged to cultivate a ‘team first’ custom, where an individual contribution would get accredited only if it helped achieve or came close to meeting the team target.

The former fast-bowler was then asked about the reasons behind dumping Umar Akmal and the shocking axing of Ahmed Shehzad — Pakistan’s leading run getter across the three formats last year. “For 25 years we have built stars. Do you want stars or do you want the team to do well? Please tell me what does the average fan wants?” countered Waqar, his retort reminding one of those lethal reverse swinging yorkers that unerringly dismantled the best in the business.

Refusing to elaborate on the supposed misdemeanours of Shehzad and Akmal, Waqar stayed focused on the way forward, reiterating that he simply has no time for those who are busy pestering him and are clueless about the reality in the Pakistan camp.

“I have six months to a year left in my contract, if we don’t take some hard decisions we would continue to languish nowhere,” he said. “The so-called critics are only causing distress and destruction, they don’t bother to dig deep and figure out the facts.

“I’ll be gone soon, so the critics must look beyond personalities and must help build a system.”

New-look squad, new hopes 

Waqar wants to maximise the talent of the core group of youngsters that have been selected to take on Bangladesh. From now on, he and his ODI captain are primed for gambles and a modern brand of cricket that the leading teams seem to have mastered.

The duo have vowed not to comprise on fitness and fielding standard, they collectively agree that fitness and fielding were the encumbrances encountered Down Under during the largely lackadaisical World Cup effort.

Azhar — a leg-spinner who transformed into an international class Test batsman — is ready to flex his bowling muscles again and he will not stop at himself only; even the reintegrated batsmen with the capability of turning their arm over, à la Fawad Alam, have been given a signal to loosen up their bowling arm.

“We have got the message across in no uncertain terms,” said the skipper. “The new ODI rules and the general playing conditions demand a great deal from each member of the eleven, batsmen must also contribute and improve with the ball; especially the ones who bowl regularly in domestic cricket.”

The attitude, tactics and the temperament displayed by the batsmen at the World Cup failed to impress Waqar, and Azhar is aware that his mesh of youngsters and stalwarts must deliver and must approach the ‘new era’ with uncluttered minds. “We have to meet the pace and the trends set by the leading teams of the world,” said Azhar. Trust me we are aware and we know what players from around the world are churning out, the minds are most definitely in sync, hopefully our performances will replicate our thought process.”

As Azhar prepares for the Bengal Tigers, all he wants from the fans is to recognise that the players, primarily the newer lot, remain determined and are anxious to make a momentous impact at the highest stage. “I’m not asking for blind praise, I’m asking for judicious criticism,” he said. “The core of the team is young and patience is the key.”

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