COLOMBO (Reuters) - Pakistan, suddenly cast among the serious contenders for their second World Cup title after beating Sri Lanka, have the chance to fine-tune their fielding and bowling on Thursday in preparation for tougher tests ahead.
The 1992 winners take on Canada here with the full expectation of adding to a perfect record in Group A after beating the co-hosts by 11 runs on Saturday and Kenya by 205 runs last week.
Almost as important as collecting maximum points and building on their positive net run-rate will be the opportunity to work on some of the departments of their game which could still do with plenty of work -- almost all in the field.
Pakistan team manager Intikhab Alam is delighted that, after being plagued with off-field problems for so long including a corruption scandal involving three players, they can play at the World Cup without the pressure of being among the favorites.
At least until now.
“It’s good that we were not the favorites to win this World Cup and that has enabled the team to play without any pressure,” he told reporters at a training session on Tuesday.
“The team has peaked at the right time,” he said. “Pakistan is blessed with talents. If you take each of our spin bowlers they bowl in a different manner and our fast bowlers have a lot of variation.”
Canada have yet to win a game in a World Cup since their only victory against Bangladesh in Durban 2003. They were bowled out for 36 by Sri Lanka in the same World Cup to record the lowest ever score by a team in the tournament.
The North Americans have started the tournament with a 210-run defeat by Sri Lanka and on Monday they suffered a 175-run beating by Zimbabwe.
Pakistan, however, know only too well that taking any opponent lightly at a World Cup is a mug’s game after premature exits in both 2003 and 2007, the latter after a shock defeat to Ireland.
Both Alam and captain Shahid Afridi have admitted concerns about their poor fielding seen here so far and Reuters witnessed a tough training session dedicated to this vital aspect of the game led by coach Waqar Younis on Tuesday.
“We are concentrating more on fitness and fielding,” all rounder Abdul Razzak said.
“This team has got two to three youngsters. We have got a good combination. That’s why we look united and unity makes the difference. This is just starting and our main matches are coming.”
Editing by Jon Bramley