It''s ok to have Zaheer not play warm-up games: Imran

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) His absence from the World Cupwarm-up games is not going to affect India spearhead ZaheerKhan''s performance in the main tournament, feels formerPakistan captain Imran Khan.

"Zaheer Khan is accomplished, experienced and at the peakof his career. Considering that he''s been through Test and ODIseries, it''s ok to have him not play warm ups," Imran said.

"If you have an experienced bowler like Zaheer I wouldgive him a new ball in the nets and ask him to bowl fiveover''s at the stumps just to keep him physically fit," he told''CNN-IBN'' during a show that also featured former Australiaand West Indies captains Allan Border and Vivian Richards.

Asked about Zaheer going into the World Cup withoutenough match practice, Border said the injury-prone left-armpacer needs to be managed judiously.

"Given his history of injuries, going to this sort oftournament, he needs to be managed very well," Border said.

Asked about the likely favourites to lift the title, theyfelt India and Sri Lanka have the best chance.

"I think India has got a very good side. They are playingat home. They know the conditions well. I think they have beenplaying good cricket in the last couple of years. I will beworried about Sri Lanka as well. They are playing a lot oftheir games in those conditions too," Border said.

Imran nodded in agreement.

"India and Sri Lanka, they are the two favorites, butonce you get into the quarterfinal stage, no one is underdog.

"I wouldn''t rule out Pakistan entirely. I think Umer Gulhas done well in ODIs. In batting they have a defensivebatsman like Younis Khan and hard hitters like Abdul Razzak.

"Saheed Afridi can play a cameo and change the game. So Ithink Pakistan has the ability.

When talks veered towards Australia, Border, who guidedthe team to its maiden title in 1987, said people are readingtoo much into their Ashes defeat.

"I think a lot of people are confusing Test cricket toone day cricket. Yes, we lost in India recently and the Ashesagainst England, but that was Test cricket, in one day cricketwe have maintained a decent consistent level.

"I, though, admit that Australia is not the best team inthe tournament," Border said.

Richards seconded Border''s views, saying that thedefending champions have some talented players.

"As Allan said, they are very much in touch where one daycricket is concerned, and I guess, they have got some reallytalented players.

"When you look at the team that''s just beaten England6-1, it sends a message that Australia is not down and out.

On the spot-fixing scandal, Imran felt the PakistanCricket Board and the ICC did not not have any option.

"If you are caught taking money for bowling no-ball, Ithink it''s the punishment they deserved. It''s sad for Pakistancricket and for those two bowlers."

"I think the punishment is better for the future ofPakistan cricket." PTI AH

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