‘Ajmal will be trump card against India’

Updated 14 December 2012
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‘Ajmal will be trump card against India’

ISLAMABAD: Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal will be Pakistan’s “trump card” during their short cricket tour of India this month, coach Dav Whatmore said yesterday.
The 35-year-old Ajmal is ranked No. 1 in one-day internationals and Twenty20s, with 109 wickets in 71 ODIs and 69 wickets in 48 T20s.
“Saeed Ajmal will always remain a trump card for us as we all know he’s a wonderful bowler,” Whatmore said in Lahore. “He’s very much needed, and he will always remain a threat.” Ajmal’s doosra that turns away from the right-handers continues to baffle batsmen. But he’s expected to have to share an extra workload in the one-dayers after enigmatic all-rounder Shahid Afridi was dropped by the selectors due to poor form.
Pakistan’s short training camp was confined to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore due to rain on Friday. Former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was expected to pass on batting advice before the team leaves for India on Dec. 22.
“He’s been a stalwart for Pakistan cricket and he’s only recently retired so he’s able to pass on some knowledge against contemporary bowlers he has faced,” Whatmore said.
Inzamam has been appointed as a batting consultant on a series-to-series basis by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
“He has faced the Indian bowlers so he is able to work with our players and discuss and let them know how he approached the same bowlers that we are going to approach.” The series, the first between the neighbors in five years, features two T20s and three ODIs beginning at Bangalore on Dec. 25.
Tours between them were suspended when 166 people were killed in the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, which India blamed on Pakistan. Since then, they have met in tournaments, including the 2011 World Cup semifinals at the northern Indian city of Mohali. India beat Pakistan then, and went on to win the World Cup.
Whatmore said no matter what type of pitches they met in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Calcutta and New Delhi, he just hoped they were conducive to good matches.
“We’ve got five different venues, the pitches at those venues, I think, are slightly different,” he said. “Inherently you have certain venues that will play in a certain way ... both sides have decent players of all conditions. But, you know, the conditions in India are fairly well known to our boys and it will be a good contest.”
Whatmore was appointed coach in March and soon after the former Australia test batsman guided Pakistan to victory against India in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. India got the better of Pakistan in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
“This will be the first time we’ll play more than two or three times in a small series, it’s an honor to be part of that,” he said. “It will be an experience.”


Nabil Maaloul: 'Arab teams are playing catch-up with the rest of the world'

Updated 14 min 29 sec ago
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Nabil Maaloul: 'Arab teams are playing catch-up with the rest of the world'

Samindra Kunti Moscow: Arab teams need two generations to compete at the highest level, that is the view of Nabil Maaloul.
The Tunisia coach was speaking after watching his Tunisia side thrashed 5-2 by Belgium in a match that underlined the gulf between the two teams.
The Arab challenge in Russia
faltered even before the final round of group matches has kicked off. Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt lost all of their eight matches in Russia — and barely 10 days into the tournament all four know they have to go home before the knockout stages. And for Maaloul this means one thing: Arab football has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to compete at the elite level.
“We did not disappoint the Arab world, we did not give up on our Arab fans,” the Tunisian coach said.
“We need two more generations to reach (the top) level of performance in terms of fitness and physical strength. We are far from the required level.”
That view was echoed by the side’s captain, Wabhi Khazri, who admitted that over Tunisia’s two matches — the defeat to Belgium and the 2-1 opening-game loss to England — the gap between them and Europe’s top teams was all too noticeable.
“The level was too high, too elevated over the two games,” Kazhri said.
“You have to say the way it is, but Tunisia have progressed a lot, and it’s for us now to finish the World Cup well against Panama.”
Tunisia had arrived in Russia on the back of encouraging friendly results against both Spain and Portugal — a tight 1-0 defeat to Spain and a 2-2 draw with Portugal — but two consecutive defeats have knocked them out of the tournament with one match still to play. The Eagles of Carthage’s winless World Cup streak now stretches to 13 games, with their last victory dating back to their opening game against Mexico at the 1978 World Cup. On Thursday, Tunisia will play Panama in their final group G game in Saransk.
“We have to be honest, a 5-2 scoreline is ridiculous, but we were not ridiculous in the way we played,” Maaloul said. “It is very difficult to win against players who can make the difference at any moment with good passes and through balls.”
Maaloul bemoaned an early penalty and two first-half injuries for the chastening defeat against Belgium. The Tunisians endured a dramatic first half, punctuated by sloppy defending and injury woes. In the sixth minute Syam Ben Youssef recklessly clattered Eden Hazard, leaving referee Jair Marrufo with little choice but to award a penalty to the European team. The Belgian captain converted, netting after just four minutes. In the England game, Harry Kane had opened the scoring after 11 minutes.
“The penalty wasn’t ideal to begin the game,” defender Fakhreddine Ben Youssef said.
“I don’t know if it was inside
the box. I had the impression
it wasn’t. The referee told us that it was inside.”
To compound Tunisia’s misery, Dylan Bronn was stretchered off in the 24th minute. The left-back built on an impressive performance from the opening game and scored, meeting Wahbi Khazri’s excellent delivery to head past Thibaut Courtois. In the 41st minute, Ben Youssef limped off injured.
“That handicapped both the coach and us,” Khazri said.
“He had to make quick substitutions. That changes the set-up a bit, because we were in the game.”