Pakistan need Aamer, Asif for World Cup, says Imran


NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s chances at the cricket World Cup will depend on the verdict reached against bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer in the match-fixing inquiry, former captain Imran Khan said on Thursday.
“We must wait for the verdict on Aamer and Asif,” Pakistan’s World Cup-winning skipper responded when asked by reporters how his nation will fare in the showpiece event next year.
“They are the best opening bowling pair in the world. We need to know about their future because if these two bowlers play, it gives Pakistan a good chance at the World Cup.
“Aamer is the best young bowling talent in the world. I have seen him closely and I can say he is streets ahead of Wasim Akram.
“Without these two bowlers, our attack is not potent.”
Aamer and Asif, along with former Test captain Salman Butt, face serious charges of spot-fixing during a tour of England in August.
An International Cricket Council tribunal is due to hear the case in the Qatari capital of Doha from January 6-11.
Imran, in New Delhi to promote the World Cup, backed Pakistan’s one-day skipper Shahid Afridi to imbue the team with confidence. “Pakistan are a very unpredictable side,” he said. “They will have to play out of the ordinary to make a mark at the World Cup.
“Afridi is the only player who can pull the team together. If he has a purple patch, he can carry the team with him.” Imran, who led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup in Australia, said a team could succeed with only two star performers, provided the other players rallied around them.
Imran, regarded as one of cricket’s finest all-rounders, picked India and Sri Lanka as the pre-tournament favourites but warned teams to guard against the pressure and expectations from fans. “In 1983, the West Indies were by far the best team, but they came under pressure from India in the final and lost the Cup.”
The World Cup is to be co-hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh from February 17-April 2 next year.
Sydney best place to return for Warne: Imran Khan said on Thursday he was bemused by suggestions that spin wizard Shane Warne should come out of retirement to resurrect Australia’s Ashes hopes.
“I have not watched Warne bowl recently, but it can’t be easy to play Test cricket again,” Imran said at a promotional event in New Delhi for next year’s World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. “It is okay to play one-dayers and even easier to bowl in Twenty20, where you have to bowl only four overs. But Test cricket is different where you have to last on the field over five days.”
Calls for Warne’s return intensified after England thrashed Australia by an innings and 71 runs in the second Test in Adelaide on Tuesday to go 1-0 up in the five-match series.
Imran said Warne’s best chance of a comeback would be on the spinning wicket in Sydney for the final Test from January 3.
“Australia will definitely need a spinner, especially in Sydney where the track assists spin bowling,” he said. “If Warne has to make a comeback it has to be at Sydney.”
West Indian great Vivian Richards, who also attended the New Delhi event, was not surprised at the clamour for Warne.
“To go back to Warne shows Australia are in dire straits,” the star batsman said. “They just do not have the bowling attack to take 20 wickets if conditions are not favourable.
“The way Australia are playing in the Ashes shows they are on decline. They are not the best team in the world anymore, they are on the way down.”