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'Shoaib Akhtar has improved in patches'

Last updated on: February 17, 2011 16:10 IST

The controversy surrounding the Pakistan team is a thing of the past.

The string of mediocre results in the recent past is best forgotten.

- Complete Coverage

The loss of three key players -- blame it on that spot-fixing saga -- is not a problem any more.

As regards the delay in the appointment of the captain, well, forget it.

- 'Shoaib Akhtar dope-tested ahead of WC'

If Waqar Younis is to be believed, what mattersĀ most now is what lies ahead for his team -- the World Cup.

While experts can be forgiven for stacking the odds against Pakistan -- and labeling it as a team that can at most cause an upset or two -- Waqar believes his side has more quality than it is perceived.

Shoab AkhtarAnd bolstering the belief of the Pakistan coach is his side's recent success -- a series win in New Zealand as well as a good showing in the opening warm-up game (against Bangladesh).

"We are pretty happy with the performance so far," opines Waqar, adding, "We had a superb series in New Zealand.

"Overall, it's been good and, hopefully, it should stay like this."

Coming to the Pakistan team per se, captain Shahid Afridi has made it clear that veteran fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar might have a limited role to play at the World Cup.

Asked about his view on the issue, Waqar was forthcoming and seconds Afridi.

"We played him in New Zealand recently and he improved in patches," he explains, adding, "I think it is important for him to get into full throttle before we get him to play.

"But we are working with him; both me and Aaqib Javed are trying to get him into his rhythm before the tournament starts."

The message is loud and clear. With another reliable bowler, Sohail Tanvir, being ruled out owing to an injury, the Pakistani attack suddenly looks less lethal. However, Waqar does have ample faith in the abilities of the substitute (Junaid Khan).

"Junaid is a good prospect," says the coach, adding, "He is young and energetic and you do need youngsters to come up the ranks."

However, when asked if he intends to give the youngster an opportunity early on, the coach becomes a tad skeptical.

"I am not sure if he is going to get a start in this tournament," he explains, adding, "But you never know we might need him in the middle overs and so he might just be included."

Regarding the batting line-up, besides the experienced campaigners what excites Waqar most isĀ promising youngster Ahmed Shehzad.

"I am pretty impressed with him," says the coach, mincing no words. That is followed by a somewhat elaborate explanation.

"He is playing really well," explains Waqar, adding, "Going back to the New Zealand tour, he got a hundred (115 at Seddon Park, Hamilton) in the last game he played.

"A youngster coming on the big stage, playing such a knock and taking up so much responsibility is pleasing to see that. Hopefully, he is going to continue."

With a good blend of youth and experience, Waqar's team looks well capable of upsetting the applecart of the big guns and make an impact in the tournament, if not go all the way and win the trophy.

Bikash Mohapatra in Dhaka