Johannesburg: Veteran Pakistani opener Saeed Anwar, laid low by a Shoaib Akhtar missile, said on Thursday he was desperate to play in his team's World Cup opener against defending champion Australia. The 34-year-old, making a comeback in the national team after a five month absence, had his left elbow bruised by a thunderbolt from pace bowler Akhtar during Pakistan's nets earlier this week. The injury sent shock waves through the Pakistani camp, but Anwar said he was working hard to be fit for Tuesday's key match against the Australians at the Wanderers. "I am desperate to play in this important match, because it holds the key to our future in the tournament," Anwar said.
"I am icing the elbow for two days and went to see an ortheopadic surgeon and in a few days I should know where I stand." Anwar, whose 194 against India six years ago remains One-day cricket's highest individual score, sat out Pakistan's last warm-up match against a provincial team in Benoni on Thursday. "When I received that blow I thought my World Cup was over but thanks to Almighty Allah there was no fracture," he said. Anwar has not played active cricket since Pakistan's game against the Netherlands in the ICC Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka last September. Anwar, sporting a long beard after turning a devout Muslim two years ago following his daughter's death, gave a sermon at a local mosque in Johannesburg earlier this week.
"A cricketer delivering a sermon attracts a lot of people and since cricketers are most sought after, people take a lot of notice of the religious things," said a local Muslim social worker Ahmed Hussain. Meanwhile, Pakistani all-rounder Wasim Akram took a stroll down memory lane on Thursday as his country's World Cup squad attended a development clinic for young children. "It was a fantastic experience and some of the kids asked me about my childhood and how I broke into cricket," Akram said. "It took me back to my childhood for a moment."
The entire Pakistan squad visited the school on the outskirts of Johannesburg for a 90-minute cricket session with children. "Some of the kids were amazing and we had a great time," said Akram, who is taking part in his fifth World Cup. Wasim burst onto the international scene as an 18-year-old in 1984 and attained dizzy heights as the only bowler with more than 400 wickets in both Test and one-day cricket. His 490 wickets in the shorter version of the game is a world record. "I remember when I was a kid I used to watch the legendary Imran Khan and wanted to be like him. "And these kids we met today also have dreams to become international stars." Wasim and fellow pacer Shoaib Akhtar gave the children tips on how to swing the ball. "The objective was to score points off the field as well and the team holds similar clinics all over Pakistan whenever they have the time," Pakistan media manager Samiul Hasan said.