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Pak team manager pragmatic about WC final

The manager of the Pakistani cricket squad is very pragmatic about his team's ability to make it to the finals, but feels Australia is the best competing nation.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2003 12:43 IST

The manager of the Pakistani cricket squad is very pragmatic about his team's ability to make it to the finals, but feels Australia is the best competing nation.

"You know, unlike most people who say 'We will win, Inshallah (God Willing)', I'm not one of those. I'm a realist. I think Australia is the favourite," said Shahrayar Khan.

"I think we are capable of beating Australia more than any other side, because we have the talent and the flair. But beyond that I also recognize that we have weaknesses in batting; that our batting is by no means as good as some of theother countries. We can suffer sometimes temperamentally in a crisis situation."

Reflecting his years of being a diplomat, the former foreign secretary said: "So, given these factors, I'm very hopeful that our talent will emerge. But I also accept that it may not."

Khan said he attributed the better form that the team has been showing in practice games here to several factors.

"I think the boys realize that this is the big event. Also, for many of the senior players, this will also be their last World Cup. The fact that they carry the hopes of the nation and the people with them has changed their attitudes.

"Because playing a bilateral series when many of your players are injured and even not with you, as in the case of Saeed Anwar and Wasim Akram, led to a certain despondency (in the last tour to South Africa when Pakistan was routed by the hosts).

"But all that they have put behind them. Their body language is very good. They are full of spirit and I think they will do very well."

Commenting on a practice injury in which Saeed Anwar was injured off a ball from paceman Shoaib Akhtar, Khan said: "It's very unfortunate, but this happens. He's not out of the tour, but just out of the warm-up matches so far.

"It's difficult to say, but the doctor said one week, so I'm hoping that he will be fine before the first match, because that's exactly a week away."

Khan said the local Asian community, who are mainly of Indian origin, had received the Pakistani team very well.

"We played a warm-up game in Lenasia (the mainly Indian suburb south of here) Tuesday and it was like playing before a home crowd. They were very enthusiastic, but this is true of every other place we have been to as well.

"We have been very warmly welcomed not only by the Asian society or Muslims only, but by everyone over here. But naturally those who are in areas where there is a heavy concentration of South Asians and Muslims are perhaps more enthusiastic and they interact with the team.

"We go for Friday prayers, pray and eat with them, and that's an important thing."

On a previous visit to South Africa, the Pakistani team has been surrounded by controversy, with some members allegedly being mugged outside a nightclub here. But Khan said there were no official curfews in place during the World Cup.

"I haven't told them not to come late. They themselves said that they will not be late and that anyone breaching this curfew will be fined. Frankly I see no reason to put in an official curfew because they respect it themselves."

Pakistan's first game in the World Cup is against Australia on Tuesday.

First Published: Feb 06, 2003 12:43 IST