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'We cant afford any more controversies': Waqar

After enough controversy in the last few months to last a lifetime, Pakistan players should finally concentrate on pressing matters on the field, when they launch their World Cup campaign on Wednesday, says coach Waqar Younis .

cricket Updated: Feb 21, 2011 22:10 IST

After enough controversy in the last few months to last a lifetime, Pakistan players can finally concentrate on pressing matters on the field, when they launch their World Cup campaign on Wednesday.

For once the team -- which has been in the spotlight almost non stop since a corruption scandal erupted in England last August -- has a low key engagement when they take on a Kenya side, already humiliated by New Zealand in their first Cup match.

As usual, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis was peppered with queries at Monday's news conference ahead of the match, about the spot fixing case -- deliberately organised no balls -- in England, which led to the suspension of three of his key players.

But the former fast bowler dodged each question and instead preferred to look firmly into the future. "You can't afford any more controversies, we are just trying to stay away from it," said Waqar, who missed out on the country's 1992 World Cup triumph due to injury.

"It is going to be really tough. But we have seen Pakistan cricket teams in the past couple of decades whenever things are hard and tough for them, they really come out positive as you have seen in 1992. "We have been in some tough times in the recent past. But it does not mean that we don't have talent and that we are not good enough. "We are a very good team and can beat any team on a given day. So I don't think anybody is thinking of this match fixing or spot fixing, whatever it was, and what happened in the past. We all are gearing for this tournament."


The World Cup itself has very bittersweet memories for Pakistan. They shocked everybody, except themselves, to win in 1992 in Melbourne by crushing England and were runners up seven years later to Australia at Lord's.

Four years ago, their world turned on its head with a first round stunning defeat by Ireland and within hours their coach Bob Woolmer, the former England batsman, was found collapsed in his hotel room. He was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Now the challenge is to bounce back from losing three very talented cricketers -- former captain Salman Butt, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir -- to five year suspensions. All three have denied wrongdoing.

The Kenyan match should give Waqar's still talented line up the chance for a final tune up before tougher challenges ahead.

The Africans were skittled for 69 by a New Zealand one day side the Pakistanis beat only recently. Waqar rested his skipper Shahid Afridi for their last warm up, a defeat by England on Friday, but the all rounder will be back to play his usual role of breathing life into a side, of often infuriatingly unfulfilled potential.

Tougher engagements against co-hosts Sri Lanka (Feb 26) and champions Australia (March 19), not to mention the Kiwis (March 8), lie in wait, so they certainly cannot afford to lose this one. For now, Waqar is concentrating on guarding his team against complacency.

"We have to be very cautious about these minnows because they can be dangerous on a given day," said Waqar, whose country have beaten Kenya in all five of their previous meetings.

"We have to make sure that we deliver up continuously in every game. "I think the big games and real start will be after the quarter-finals. But before that you have to make sure that you take the momentum and take the rhythm going through yourself. "Once you are in quarter-finals, it's a different ball game."