Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pakistan want to win T20 for Woolmer

Pakistan skipper Younus Khan says his team want to win the World Twenty20 as a tribute to former coach Bob Woolmer.

Pakistan play South Africa in the semi-finals on Thursday and Woolmer, who died during the 2007 World Cup, is still a strong influence on the squad.

"He was an inspiring person," Younus said of the Englishman. "He was like a father figure for me and the team.

"We all still miss him and if we win the World Cup I will dedicate that final game to him."

Woolmer spent more than two-and-a-half years in charge of Pakistan, with many of the current players regulars during that period.

However, after his team's loss to Ireland in the World Cup two years ago, he died aged 58 after being found unconscious in a hotel in the Caribbean.

But Younus has utilised Woolmer's strategy advice to fine effect in this current tournament, having moved Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi up the batting order to improve their run-rate.

"I learned a lot of things from Bob and he was always flexible, especially in the batting order," Younus added.

"I thought we needed a couple of in-form batsmen for big games like the semi-final and final."

Despite a comfortable win over Ireland on Monday at The Oval, they were wobbling on 159-5, but Younus admitted that "everybody knows we're slow starters".

"We take some time and we need some time for ourselves and now we are just two wins away from winning the World Cup," he added.

"I still believe we were 20 runs short. It would be good if we could put 180 or 200 on the board because in the semi-finals there will be good teams against us and it's not possible to win all the time scoring 150."

Meanwhile, Younus said any suggestion that his team were ball-tampering was "embarrassing".

The Pakistan captain was reacting after New Zealand spoke to match officials last Saturday regarding the state of the ball, following Umar Gul's haul of 5-6 guiding them to victory in their Super Eights clash.

Gul is the leading wicket-taker in 20-over internationals' short history with 36 and also finished as the most prolific bowler in the previous world tournament with 13 wickets in South Africa.

"He knows the art, especially in Twenty20," said Younus. "He has worked hard in the nets. He has spoken to Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Shoaib Akhtar.

"It's all about hard work in the nets and that's why he's improving from day to day."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith admitted that combating Gul was going to be a major challenge for his side.

"Umar's obviously bowled really well," he said.

"Their tactics are pretty up front, in the sense that they've been holding him back and using other guys first.

"We've obviously discussed it. We've toured the sub-continent before and come across that type of situation - but it's something we'll talk about."

Smith is encouraged by South Africa's five wins from five attempts so far in the tournament.

"We've had a few different challenges, and it was good for us to play on a surface like this and beat India (on Tuesday) on it," he said.

"For us to be in the final would be terrific. We are professional and clinical, but I think we've proven that we have enough flair and options available to us to be the all-round package.

"This team has come a long way, and we've proven that. How we've played under pressure has been incredible."

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher (wk), Johan Botha, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Roelof van der Merwe, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.

Pakistan (from): Younus Khan (capt), Kamran Akmal (wk), Shahzaib Hasan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Aamir, Umar Gul, Ahmed Shahzad, Salman Butt.

Umpires: Steve Davis (Aus) and Billy Bowden (NZ)

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