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Aaqib wants his bowlers to raise energy levels

KANDY, Sri Lanka: Soon after Ross Taylor butchered Pakistan’s bowling attack to play the innings of his life at Pallekele on Tuesday, questions were asked whether the Greenshirts have enough firepower to go all the way to the World Cup title.

The New Zealand vice-captain went on a rampage in that game and together with tailenders — Nathan McCullum and Jacob Oram —

plundered the bowlers to add 100 runs to his team’s total in the last five overs. Suddenly it seemed that Taylor had exposed the weaknesses in Pakistan’s bowling arsenal. So are Pakistan’s coaches worried?

Aaqib Javed, Pakistan’s assistant coach, doesn’t think so. In fact, he still rates Pakistan as one of the strongest bowling sides in the World Cup.

“We know our strengths,” the former Pakistan Test pacer told reporters on the sidelines of his team’s training session here at the Asgiriya Stadium on Thursday. “We still have variation and depth in bowling, more than any other team (at the World Cup,” he stressed.

Aaqib, who took 54 Test and 182 ODI wickets during his international career, believes that the 110-run loss against New Zealand is a blessing in disguise for Pakistan, who went into that match with three wins in a row. “A bad day like it is actually good for us because you learn from such results,” he said.

He admitted that Pakistan were terribly off the mark against the Black Caps but was quick to add that one will have to give credit to Taylor for his “outstanding” knock.

“Our team’s morale is as good as it was before the New Zealand match,” he said. “Sometimes no matter how much we criticise ourselves, we should appreciate others too. Our bowling wasn’t on target. The yorkers didn’t go well, but Taylor gets the credit too for his outstanding innings.”

Aaqib’s diagnosis for Pakistan’s pace attack is that most of the fast bowlers lack the sort of fitness and energy that is needed to shine in the death overs.

“In the 10-15 overs we lost our energy levels,” he said referring to the match against new Zealand. “Our bowlers need to keep up their energy levels and minds fresh. We’re training for that now. Bowl a spell, then run and then come back and bowl again.”

Aaqib rejected the impression that Pakistan are playing their World Cup matches with just three bowlers, saying that he counts Shahid Afridi, the flamboyant allrounder, among one of his ‘specialist bowlers’.

“No team goes in with five specialist bowlers. Afridi is a specialist bowler. You pick the first four and Afridi’s name is the first one. A bowler who can bat is the allrounder you pick and we have Abdul Razzaq who chips in with both.”

Aaqib, 38, said that life is pretty difficult for bowlers on what are generally batting-friendly wickets in the tournament. “In these conditions where there is no seam or bounce... it’s not easy. Bowlers with pace and reverse swing are more successful here. Energy levels need to be good too.”

The coach praised Shoaib Akhtar for his performance with the new ball but urged him to improve his showing in the final overs. “Akhtar has worked hard. No doubt he’s bowled very well with the new ball. His speed, line and length are better. The problem is the death overs. His energy level isn’t what it should have been. But he can improve.”