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'Pak-India games bigger than Ashes: Waqar

LAHORE, April 13: National team’s head coach Waqar Younis on Wednesday urged the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) to take appropriate steps to revive bilateral series between Pakistan and India at the earliest, stressing the contest between the arch-rivals is more significant than the Ashes.

“The most important thing for Pakistan is the revival of our contests with India, which is also beneficial for the entire cricketing world. The rivalry [between India and Pakistan] is more important than the Ashes [a traditional Test match series between Australia and England],” Waqar said while talking to reporters after the two-day national training camp for the West Indies tour ended at the Gaddafi Stadium here on Wednesday.

“Though Pakistan reached the World Cup semi-final, we have not been playing international matches at home [since March 2009], which is worrying for us. And [therefore] a bilateral series against India can revive international cricket in Pakistan,” Waqar added.

The Pakistan coach said cricket had again worked as a bridge, bringing the two countries closer during the World Cup.

“The prime ministers of the two countries met each other due to the Mohali semi-final.

“More such activities between India and Pakistan can bring their people further closer to each other,” he said.

About Javed Miandad’s reluctance to work as national squad’s batting coach, Waqar proposed the PCB should consider another man for the job if Miandad was not willing to accept the offer for any reason.

“Other suitable candidates can be tried [as batting coach] if Miandad is not ready for any reason,” Waqar said.

The head coach simply declined to comment on a media statement given by Miandad in which the master batsman stated that the team despite having fielding and bowling coaches had not shown improvement in these departments, and wondered what he could do if made the batting coach.

“I don’t want to indulge in such things. I am doing my job on the field and during the last 12-14 months the team has shown improvement,” Waqar said.

While acknowledging the team’s batting woes, Waqar refused to accept fielding was also a worrying area.

Our bowlers have been doing well and they did a nice job in the World Cup too. The question mark remains on our batting; after scoring 30-40 most of our batsmen throw away their wickets. And I think it is not due to any technical fault, rather they need some time to get matured in order to prolong their stay at the wicket,” Waqar elucidated.

“Our fielding has improved a lot. Though critics are not happy and mention just one game, i.e. the semi-final against India where we dropped a good number of catches. However, I think overall our fielding has made remarkable improvement,” the coach reckoned.

The head coach said youngsters would get maximum chances on the West Indies tour.

“After the World Cup it is a practice that every country inducts youngsters while targeting the next World Cup. And so we also included some new players for the West Indies series. And all of them will get chances,” he stated.

He cautioned that the series against the West Indies should not be taken lightly, noting the Caribbean team had always been formidable rivals on their home soil.

While praising the supporting staff for their untiring efforts to make the team as one unit, Waqar stressed that his players had gelled together prolifically.

He noted the national team getting welcome on arriving home, despite losing the World Cup semi-final to India, was a new tradition.

“Though the people were disappointed after we lost the semi-final, they welcomed us because the team played good cricket in the group matches and the quarter-final,” he said.

To a query, Waqar signalled that untested fast bowler Junaid Khan could lead the pace attack in the West Indies series.

“Wahab Riaz has always been good with the old ball while Junaid knows better how to use the new ball. However, at the moment I can’t say who will use the new ball first,” he said. About the selection of wicket-keeper Mohammad Salman in the team, Waqar said he possessed domestic cricket experience and hoped the player would deliver at the international level.