1 – How do you see the conditions in Australia and New Zealand?
We must come out of the thought that it is difficult to play on bouncy pitches Down Under. It is professional cricket and we must plan how to tackle it rather than making it a big hurdle. All South Asian teams India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will also have to face those same conditions as well. So, the team must prepare for it and also keep it in mind that their predecessors had won the World Cup in these same conditions.
2- What strengths and weaknesses do you see in Pakistan cricket team?
First let me tell you that three things namely crowd, weather and condition mainly pitches support a home team. Although UAE is not a home venue but by now it has become a home away from home for Pakistan cricket team. We have seen that Pakistan has struggled against New Zealand, who is ranked below than Pakistan, in Tests and T20Is as both series eventually tied. Pakistan also struggled in the first ODI as they were reduced to 124-6 at one stage with 246 runs to chase. However, it was Haris Sohail and Shahid Afridi who took the team to victory stand. So I think we need to plan a lot and work a lot on our grey areas in order to prepare well for the World Cup. The match has also shown that Haris Sohail has a class, the way he played under immense pressure is laudable. First he played slow to build a partnership and then went for big shots, when it was required. I have never seen the young guy playing before and I am hopeful that he prove to be a talented and consistent player. Shahid Afridi’s performance is also commendable and we must not forget the genius behind it, which is team manager and chief selector Moin Khan, who has picked Haris and also convinced Shahid to play responsibly.
3- Under present circumstances, considering Pakistan and other teams’ standings where do you see Pakistan’s expected performance in World Cup 2015?
I hope that Pakistan perform well and once again lift the title. But for that to happen our team has to prepare well as I said and work at their grey areas. Gain consistency in batting and also work on its fielding department. At the end of the day, there will be no team in the World Cup that Pakistan has not defeated in the past, so Pakistan may have less higher ranked players comparing it with India, Australia or South Africa, but when it is their day, they could beat any of the top teams.
4- What things do you think Pakistan should be focusing before the World Cup?
They must not overlook Mohammad Hafeez because team Pakistan will be needing his experience in the World Cup. It is a great setback that he has been suspended from bowling and there is little chance that ICC would clear him before the World Cup. However, I still believe he would be the right pick as specialist opener exclusively. He is a class batsman. I always say that form may be temporary but class is permanent. He is going through a bad patch but that has happened to every player and it has even happened to Misbah (Misbah-ul-Haq) as well. So Hafeez should be in the team going Down Under.
5- Which grey areas Pakistan should work on to perform well in Australia and New Zealand?
Suspension of Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal and knee injury to pacer Junaid Khan have hurt Pakistan chances. In order to recover from these multiple blows, Pakistan should now work hard with the available lot. We need bowling options and we also need to solve perennial problem with our batting department. Coaches should also work on the fielding department as well.
6- How do you see Pakistan playing the first World Cup match against India?
The match between traditional rivals Pakistan and India is always a luxury for not only Pakistan and Indian fans but also cricket fans around the world. Although India is a stronger team but Pakistan possess the potential to beat them. Pakistan should go all out to beat them to start their World Cup campaign on a winning note.
7- Which teams do you think will be giving tough time to Pakistan Down Under?
Pakistan will face tough resistance from India, South Africa and also West Indies in group matches. We should also not forget that Ireland has defeated us in World Cup 2007, which eventually proved to be a fatal blow to our World Cup campaign then. So I don’t think Pakistan should not take any of the team lightly and should also not come under pressure against big names.
8- What frame of mind you think Pakistan should play with during the World Cup?
Although Pakistan is facing blows after blows to its World Cup campaign as Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez are suspended from bowling while Junaid Khan is recovering from knee injury. In spite of all these facts Pakistan should go with a positive frame of mind and vie for the title and don’t settle for anything less. They must try their best to replicate their predecessors Down Under in the World Cup.
9- Which teams do you think are the top contender for the World Cup?
Apart from the tag of chokers, I think South Africa has a great outfit, considering its strong batting and effective fast bowling. They can accumulate runs having players like Hashim Amla, Quinton De Kock and AB de Villiers in its fold. While, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel lead a dangerous bowling attack. Their bowling is supplemented by their impressive fielding. Meanwhile, India will be another dangerous team in the tournament with its lethal spinners and ever prolific batsmen.
10- Finally, do you think Pakistan cricket team would be able to once more lift World Cup Trophy at the same venue of Melbourne Cricket Ground?
Yes, I have great expectations to see our players lift the trophy once more and it would be a highly delightful incidence that it happened at the same venue when team Pakistan won their first and the only World Cup title in 1992. The tournament throughout would remind Pakistan cricket fans of Pakistan’s memorable World Cup winning campaign. That achievement in 1992 has still been the biggest and most celebrated sports feat for Pakistan nation and I hope that our team could do that once again next year.