Akram itching to play Aussies, says he~~s rearing to go

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Cape Town: Pakistani all-rounder Wasim Akram said on Saturday he was fired up to take the field in Tuesday's key World Cup clash against defending champion Australia. The 36-year-old, playing his fifth and last World Cup, believed a victory over Ricky Ponting's men at the Wanderers in Johannesburg would propel his side towards the title. "I have always enjoyed taking on challenges," Wasim said. "Aussies have always been a very competitive team and I enjoy playing and performing against them. "I just can't wait for Tuesday's game and although it would not be a grudge match, we would certainly like to start the tournament on a winning note," he said. Pakistan, who crashed to a humiliating eight-wicket defeat to Australia in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord's, has been drawn together with the reigning champion in Group 'A' of the preliminary league. "Memories of that final are still fresh in my memory," Wasim said. "But I am determined to bury them once and for ever in this tournament. This will surely be my last World Cup and I am keen to end on a high note." Wasim, regarded as one of the finest left-arm seamers of all-time, is One-day cricket's most successful bowler with 490 wickets. He is also the only bowler in history to take more than 400 wickets in both forms of the game. Wasim was man-of-the-final when Pakistan won the World Cup under Imran Khan's leadership in 1992 when he clobbered a rapid 33 runs and picked up three wickets. "I am desperate to be in the final and that's the goal I have set for myself," he said. "I am not concerned who the man-of-the-final is this time, but I want to see Pakistan in the final. "And if we achieve that, I think I will retire from cricket as probably the most satisfied cricketer who achieved everything in the game." Wasim refused to predict Pakistan's opponent in the final, but said he was expecting Australia, South Africa and the West Indies as the other semi-finalists. "I think South Africa has a huge home advantage," he said. "But at the same time South Africans must be under tremendous pressure as it is being projected here as if they have already won the tournament. I have seen teams succumbing under such needless pressure. Wasim said he saw his role as the team's mentor and inspirational leader in this tournament. "The boys look at me for inspiration and guidance," he said. "This gives me added motivation to perform better than before. I am geared up and feel more charged up than maybe in the last few months."

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