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April 19, 1999


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Our only goal is to win!

Wasim Akram

Wasim Akram It has been a learning experience for me, my third stint as captain. And this stint, thus far, has been the finest of the three tries I have had in the captaincy.

I put into practice all that I learnt from Imran Khan and Javed Miandad during their playing days, and I think that is how I have been able to get the best out of the younger players. The Pakistan team is like a well-knit family right now, a team that is hungry for more and more success, and that is a very good thing for any captain. When you have a team in that frame of mind, all that a captain has to do is set an example by working hard himself, and leading from the front.

The whole hue and cry about match fixing had definitely affected our team. The younger players were obviously shaken to hear such accusations against senior players. How is a team supposed to function when players within the team accuse their own colleagues of being match-fixers, and traitors? I mean, there was no way a team, however gifted, can perform with that kind of atmosphere prevailing in the dressing room, with that cloud hanging on its head.

Javed Miandad Once that problem was sorted out, we were left free to concentrate solely on our cricket, and that is when the team started doing well. Now the players are even more determined to give of their very best. By winning the Sharjah Cup after a couple of setbacks against India and England, we also proved our detractors wrong -- Rashid Latif and company were raising a hue and cry about the team being involved in match-fixing yet again. I hope the victory -- and equally importantly, the margin of victory -- will provide some food for thought for these gentlemen.

I accepted the captaincy because the boys had faith in me and wanted me to lead them. When I took over, we gave them pep talks and generally concentrated on boosting their morale. Ours is a side full of raw talent, complemented by the experience of some players who have a lot of cricket left in them. And this mix is a good sign, a positive sign, for Pakistan cricket.

I told the boys to always give 100 per cent, that it did not matter if they won or lost. The point is, and this is what I told them, that if they do give one hundred per cent n the field, they have the talent to beat any side in the world. Today, Pakistan is a rejuvenated side. I had said in an interview to this site earlier that though Pakistan is one of the favourites, the history of the World Cup shows that favourites have never won the Cup in the past -- but then, I think we just might prove my statement wrong, and end up winning the tournament.

Ever since Javedbhai and I teamed up, we have had only one motto, and that is to win. But that doesn't come easy -- we have to work at it, every single day. The boys have tuned themselves to the fitness regime chalked out for them and, to their credit, have applied themselves really hard. Even though there are murmurs that the team has gotten complacent after their streak of victories, I think that in reality, the boys have the fire still burning in them, and that fire will take them through to a win in the World Cup.

One of the things we tried, and which is working wonderfully well, is that the senior and junior players actually compete among themselves. For instance, you must have noticed a remarkable difference in the fielding of Inzamam and other senior members of the team. Inzamam, for that matter, has also improved his running between wickets a lot. All this comes from the fact that in practise sessions, we compete against each other. This has the double benefit of forcing all of us to try harder, and it also hones our competitive streak, and helps when we are fighting as a unit against the other team. Definitely, this is the main reason why our fielding has suddenly improved to a noticeable extent.

The role of the Pakistan Cricket Board in our success has been immense. Chairman Khalid Mahmood has backed us to the hilt, and given us 100 per cent support, mentally and physically. He has let us concentrate on the game without worrying about other extraneous issues.

Unfortunately, before he took over, it was the PCB itself that had made a mess of the team. The earlier PCB president, Majid Khan, couldn't stand me. And he was singularly responsible for pushing Pakistan cricket onto the back foot for his own personal motives. Majid, who is Imran Khan's cousin brother, hates me because I am associated with Imran Khan. Imran Khan encouraged me, he made me believe in myself. Somehow, this was not to the liking of Majid, who has done his best to get me out of the team.

But then, Majid has a problem with everyone, be it Aamir Sohail, me, whoever. What else can you expect of a man who has not spoken to his cousin brother and his aunt for the past 18 years? When Imran Khan became captain in 1980, if I am not mistaken, he had Majid Khan dropped from the side. Majid could not swallow this and he has since tried to grab every opportunity to get back at Imran in every possible manner.

But luckily, all that is now history. People are talking a lot about the Pakistan team peaking too soon but let me tell you that we are consistent, and we are working hard to keep up that consistency.

And Inshallah, we shall continue in that vein.

Wasim Akram, captain of Pakistan's World Cup-bound squad, begins the first of a series of exclusive columns for Rediff today.

We regret that due to operational reasons, regular features like forum and guest column are not being updated today -- however, these will resume from tomorrow's edition, do bear with us.

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