Pakistan will not be haunted by corruption row, says coach Waqar

Pakistani cricket coach Waqar Younis is seen in October. Younis has said that the spot-fixing scandal, which sparked lengthy bans for three high-profile players, will not haunt his embattled team at the World Cup

Hambantota: Feb 21, 2011

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said on Monday that the spot-fixing scandal, which sparked lengthy bans for three high-profile players, will not haunt his embattled team at the World Cup. In fact, the controversy, said Waqar, is not even discussed in the dressing room.

Former Test captain Salman Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were banned on charges of corruption relating to last year’s Lord’s Test against England.

All three are facing criminal prosecution in Britain. The punishments not only depleted the Pakistan team, but also affected their preparations for the World Cup. “I don’t think it will haunt Pakistan at all,” said Waqar, ahead of Pakistan’s opening match here on Wednesday against Kenya.

“We all know that we have been through tough times in the recent past but that does not mean that we don’t have talent. Despite the problems we are a good enough team to beat anybody. Nobody is even talking of match-fixing or spot-fixing, whatever it was. It happened in the past and is beyond us now,” said the 39-year-old former fast bowler.

Waqar said he and his players have learnt to deal with controversies. “We have probably stopped reading the newspapers, and watching what is on TV,” he said. “At the moment we are just keeping our focus on the job. That’s what we talk about and we cherish that we are part of a big tournament.”

Waqar played down England paceman Stuart Broad’s comments, who said he was keeping his distance from the Pakistan players in the aftermath of the controversy. “I don’t want to comment on what he (Broad) said. If he has said something which is not good, which is not fair to any individual or to any team, if he wants to keep doing that, well we will probably show it on the field.

“Pakistan are one of the top teams. I fully hope that we will get very good results in this tournament and we want to keep our focus on winning,” said Waqar, who played 87 Tests and 232 one-dayers for Pakistan.

Waqar also played down discipline breaches by controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and newcomer Wahab Riaz, who were both fined for returning late to the team hotel. “There were discipline problems and they were dealt with then and there. It’s the management’s job to keep any non-cricket thing on the side, while my job is to keep the players emotionally involved and produce better results,” said Waqar, who took over in March last year.

Waqar said Akhtar was still not hundred percent fit. “But he is a fitter bowler in our camp and I would say he is getting better and, hopefully, get into the rhythm by the quarter-final stages.”