Pak among top contenders for World Cup, says Waqar

Published: Friday, January 24, 2003, 1:27 [IST]
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Lahore: Skipper Waqar Younis warned on Thursday that his under-performing team should not be written off as contenders for the cricket World Cup on the eve of its departure for South Africa. "I was surprised to read some analysis in South Africa where people have written us off even from the Super Sixes stage," Waqar told a press conference here. "It's a wrong impression and with the focus on the Cup we are among the top contenders." The eighth World Cup starts with a colourful opening ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa on February 8 with a record 14 teams lining part. While the lion's share of matches will be in South Africa, Zimbabwe will stage six games while Kenya will host two. Pakistan, one of the most unpredictable sides in world cricket, had a miserable tour of South Africa last month where it lost the One-day series 4-1 before losing both Tests. "I have told the boys to leave the luggage of bad memories behind and prove everyone wrong with some positive, aggressive cricket," Waqar said. "The whole team is looking forward to the challenge of the World Cup.

It's time that we turn the tables on other teams." Waqar denied that the team had been sidetracked by reports of his imminent sacking and of rifts within the ranks. "There is nothing wrong in our preparation for the World Cup and I was never in a worry over my captain's seat but it's the team that is above everything else." Pakistan's base will be Johannesburg where it will play several warm-up games before taking on defending champions Australia on February 11 in a repeat of the 1999 World Cup final in England. "It would be like a final before the final and we must beat Australia so that we leave an impact on other teams," he said. Pakistan is pitted in Pool 'A' alongside Australia, England, India, the Netherlands, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The top three teams will qualify for the Super Sixes stage. "In fact our games against India and England will also be crucial because every team carries points in the Super Sixes stage and that's crucial." "Our pool does look tough but what teams you have in pools become a minor thing when you start winning," Waqar said. Pakistan is due to meet India at Cape Town on March 1, a rare and mouth-watering tie between the archrivals who have not played each other for the last years amid tensions over the disputed Kashmir region. "We have a very bad track record against India in the World Cup having lost to them in the last three Cups, so it's time we turn the tables on them.

" Waqar refused to nominate a favourite for the Cup. "Besides Australia and South Africa and Pakistan, New Zealand is a dangerous team, the West Indies is an emerging outfit and you can't even right off Sri Lanka. "No one is reckoning West Indies but it has a very good team and with a battery of new fast bowlers, they are a threat." Vice-captain and star batsman Inzamam-ul Haq said the top order players would find their form after recent poor performances. "We know our responsibilities and will make up for our recent lack of showing," he said. "We are positive that the team will win the Cup," Inzamam added.


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