Afridi banking on Akhtar to lead bowling attack

Dhaka, Feb 14 (PTI) Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi isbanking on ageing fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar to come up trumpsfor his side in their bid to lift the World Cup trophy for thefirst time in nearly two decades.

Afridi said Akhtar is working hard on his fitness andhoping to give his best in what could be his last World Cup.

"Let me tell you that Shoaib Akhtar is working really,really hard because he wants to be at his best in the WorldCup. In terms of fitness, Shoaib may be a bit down but he istotally committed and is improving day by day," Afridi said.

"I won''t be surprised if he is back at his brilliant bestat the World Cup," he said ahead of Pakistan''s first warm-upgame against Bangladesh at Mirpur tomorrow.

The sub-continental tracks are known to assist slowbowlers and Afridi said his side could go with an extraspinner in the World Cup, starting here on February 19.

"The playing conditions would be quite different to whatwe encountered during our tour of New Zealand. Here we canexplore the idea of playing an extra specialist spinner,"Afridi said.

Along with two specialist spinners in Saeed Ajmal andAbdur Rehman in the 15-member squad, Pakistan can also rely onAfridi and all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez to add variety to theirspin attack.

Afridi, however, rubbished the notion that Pakistan aregoing to the World Cup with a weakened pace attack and saidhis fast bowlers are capable of coming out with flyingcolours.

Pakistan''s pace-attack, to be spearheaded by Akhtar,includes Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Abdul Razzaq and rookiepacer Junaid Khan, who replaced an unfit left-arm pacer SohailTanvir in the 15-member squad.

"Besides Akhtar, we have Umar Gul who is a valuableplayer and match winner. I don''t think that there is any causefor concern. Our team is shaping up well and the boys are allhighly motivated to give their best in the World Cup," hesaid.

Although Pakistan are going into the World Cup with amorale-boosting ODI series victory over New Zealand but thespot-fixing scandal has left them shaken.

However, a confident Afridi said that he had full faithon his teammates and the side would just need to clicktogether.

"I have complete confidence in my boys because each andeveryone of them is a match-winner. They need to click and I''msure they will do that in the World Cup," he said.

Pakistan play England at Fatullah on Friday in theirsecond warm-up game before starting their World Cup campaignagainst Kenya in Hambantota, Sri Lanka on February 23.

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