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06 December 2023

Pakistan have firepower to surprise at World Cup - Waqar

Pakistani batsman Shahid Afridi plays a shot during the second one-day international between Pakistan and New Zealand at the Sharjah cricket stadium in Sharjah on December 12, 2014. (AFP)

By Reuters

Pakistan's preparations for the World Cup have not been ideal but coach Waqar Younis believes his team still have the firepower to surprise at the tournament.

Leading off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan's leading wicket-taker in recent years, will be missing because of suspension due to his suspect bowling action.

"Not having Saeed Ajmal is a big blow while some of our bowlers have faced fitness issues in the run up to the World Cup," Waqar told a news conference on Saturday.

"It affected our preparations but no team should write us off."

All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, also suspended, will also undergo an assessment before the World Cup to find out if he can bowl.

"We had fitness issues with our pace bowlers for the last few months and it has unsettled us but those selected must now put their hands up," Waqar added.

Fast bowler Junaid Khan suffered a hamstring injury during training but MRI scans showed he had escaped serious injury and will travel with the squad to New Zealand on Tuesday.

"I am happy our team is not tagged as favourites in the event it will help take the pressure off the players," Waqar said.

"Being favourites only adds to the pressure on players because of the high expectations from them."

Pakistan were not among the favourites for the last World Cup but surprisingly reached the semifinals.

"We also have plenty of experience in the side and I am expecting seniors like captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi and Younus Khan to perform well and show the way to the younger players," Waqar said.

Waqar did not enjoy World Cup success as a player.

He missed out with stress fracture injury in 1992 when Pakistan won the trophy and, as captain, his team were eliminated in the first round in 2003.

"This time it should be better as we have time to acclimatise to the conditions in New Zealand and Australia," Waqar said.

Pakistan play two one-day internationals against New Zealand on Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, before starting their World Cup campaign against India in Adelaide on February 15.