WORLD CUP IN THE EYES OF STYLISH INZAMAM & ACEMAN SEHWAG
Passion is the name of the game
Mar 05 - 11, 2007
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, before leaving Pakistan last week, called on his boys to draw inspiration from the 1992 World Cup victory in Australia to overcome the absence of several key players owing to injuries. Be sure we can do the job, was the moral boosting remarks of Inzamam.
Pakistan team left for the Caribbean without experienced performers Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, who were all ruled out due to fitness problems. "We are under pressure, but I have great faith in this team because it has shown fighting qualities in the past," Inzamam said.
"We have been doing well over the last two years in one day cricket despite injury issues and the players who stepped in have performed very well for us," he said. Inzamam said the replacement players for this year's tournament knew what was required of them and they must play every match like a final.
"We fought like cornered tigers in 1992 and won that tournament. We have to retain that sort of faith in ourselves this time," he added.
Inzamam, who turns 37 this February, is appearing in his fifth World Cup and was a member of the team that beat England in the Melbourne final despite a troubled start to the tournament.
The stylish batsman, who has played 375 one-dayers and amassed 11,665 runs, said one advantage for the teams from sub-continent was that the pitches in the West Indies were expected to play slow. "We have couple of very good spinners in the side and they have experience of bowling in Caribbean conditions," he said.
"They can make up for the loss of Shoaib and Asif, although how we bowl in the powerplay overs will be crucial," he added.
Inzamam scored just 19 runs in six innings as Pakistan were eliminated in the first round of the 2003 World Cup and he is determined to make amends for that failure. "The last time was a nightmare for me and the team also performed badly. I am keen to make this World Cup a successful one. I know that I have to score runs to pick up the team spirit," he said.
Pakistan's strength lies in its middle order, revolving around Inzamam, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, who have played 756 matches between them. The Pakistan skipper said this year's World Cup was fairly open but Australia were still his favourites to win despite a slump in form. "They might have lost some recent matches but they are still a very good side and not easy to beat when on a roll," he added.
"Consistency is the key to success." Pakistan are in Group D with the West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe and open their campaign against the hosts on March 13.
The decision to replace injured all-rounder Abdul Razzaq with Azhar Mahmood in the World Cup squad was taken in a haste and without consulting chairman of the national selection committee Wasim Bari.
Razzaq sustained a knee injury on Monday and medical tests were conducted the next day but as the reports were still awaited the same evening, Azhar was suddenly given the green signal to join the squad as replacement, according to a newspaper report. "What's more surprising is the fact that chief selector Wasim Bari was on his way to Karachi from Dubai at the time when the replacement was announced."
According to PCB sources, Bari was to consult fellow selectors Iqbal Qasim and Ehtesham-ud-Din on the issue but the former captain was taken by surprise as he landed at Karachi airport in the afternoon since the replacement has already been made.
According to a PCB press release, "Razzaq sustained a knee injury during training camp and initial assessment of the injury revealed partial ligament tear and bone bruising. Razzaq's knee was subsequently put in plaster for three weeks and it was decided that the injury would be reassessed after that."
A renowned medical expert on the condition of anonymity was quoted in the newspaper report as saying that there was no way a ball could cause torn ligaments or bruising of bone and such kind of injury could result in a person falling on his full weight on a firm surface. The report also said that medical reports were not given to Razzaq at any stage.
Admitting that his shot selection has been poor, ace batsman Virender Sehwag hopes that luck will "smile" during the World Cup so he can give India flying starts again.
"Luck has not been with me for sometime now. I hope the bad times are over and luck will smile on me during the World Cup," Sehwag said. "My shot selection has also not been good in the recent past and it contributed to my poor form," he said in his hotel room before catching the early morning flight to West Indies with the entire Indian team. The 16-nation World Cup begins on March 11, and India plays its first match against Bangladesh on March 17 in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Sehwag, who showed signs of regaining his touch with a strokeful 46 against Sri Lanka in Visakhapatnam in the last one-dayer before the World Cup, is aiming to score consistently in India's two warm-up matches in the West Indies to cement his place in the XI.
"My goal is to put up consistent performance. I have worked hard in the off time in Delhi and hope it will bear fruit. Hope good times are just around the corner," he said of his long practice sessions under his childhood coach Amar Nath Sharma.
"I will take it match by match in the West Indies," said the 28-year-old, the lone Indian to have scored a triple Test century. Sehwag's hopes emanate especially from his 46-run knock in which he looked in complete control of shot selection. In that series, he returned to the Indian team after being rested for the preceding series against the West Indies owing to poor form.
He was, however, quite bizarrely run out when looking set to notch his 25th half-century, and possibly his eighth century. The run out drew a lot of criticism for his casual approach, but Sehwag emphasised that his mind was very much on the game. "I was not distracted; I was not thinking anything else except cricket. I just thought I was in the crease," he commented on his dismissal for the first time in the media. After he completed the run, wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara broke the wickets at the bowler's end to take Sehwag completely by surprise.
"The only thing that I was thinking was that I had missed a boundary; that had I played the shot well it could have crossed the boundary." Sehwag, who has aggregated 4,833 runs in 167 One-dayers, also clarified that removal from vice-captaincy has not affected him or his batting. "After all, when I started playing cricket I never expected that One day I would become the Indian team's vice-captain, so when I was removed it did not affect me," he said. "You have to bat responsibly at all times, whether you are vice-captain or not." Sehwag said the last two international innings have given him a lot of confidence.
"When you are not scoring runs your confidence is low. During the break (he was rested against the West Indies series) I cleared my mind. I came back with a fresh mind against Sri Lanka," he said. Sehwag had extended practice sessions, ironing out flaws in his technique with Sharma's help. "I had uninterrupted batting sessions of up to two hours during the break. It helped me improve my concentration level."
"Usually, 30-35 overs are bowled in two hours in One-day internationals. And if you bat for that period, you can carry that concentration to the rest of the (50-over) innings," he explained. Now Sehwag is looking to score some more runs in the warm-up matches against the Netherlands and the West Indies on March 6 and 9 at Trelawny Stadium in Jamaica to enhance his confidence. "Scoring well in those matches will help a great deal," said the cricketer who was the top scorer with 82 in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia in Johannesburg.
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