Cricket: Wasim in bullish mood

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The Independent Online
PAKISTAN ARRIVED in England yesterday as one of the favourites for the World Cup, with their captain Wasim Akram insisting his team's chances will not be harmed by match-fixing allegations.

A commission investigating the claims is to hold its final hearing in Lahore today. However, despite the distraction to his team's World Cup preparations, a bullish Wasim was quick to deny suggestions of team morale being affected.

"The match-fixing issue doesn't matter to the Pakistan cricket team. We have been winning for the last three months, not just against India but also Sri Lanka and England. I think the Pakistan team is sick of the allegations," Wasim said. "We just decided in the end we will not be bothered by the allegations and we will just get on and play our cricket."

Wasim also said the side would not be affected by the resignation of their coach Javed Miandad. He quit last Wednesday, citing "family reasons''. The Pakistan Cricket Board has still not accepted Javed's resignation, but Richard Pybus, a South African coach, is expected to take over tomorrow.

"What happened last week is surprising but I can assure every member of the team is ready to give his best to bring back the Cup," Wasim said.

Ricardo Powell, a 20-year-old all-rounder who has yet to play a one- day match for his native Jamaica, will replace Carl Hooper in the West Indies squad, following Hooper's retirement from international cricket. Powell is an attacking middle-order batsman, an off-spin bowler and brilliant fielder - but he has only played six first-class matches and has no experience in England.

"We will obviously miss Carl, who is an outstanding cricketer and had vast experience, not least playing for Kent in the English County Championship for many years," Clive Lloyd, the West Indies' manager, said. "But this is a chance for Powell to show his worth in the biggest tournament in world cricket."

West Indies' cricket officials are to meet next month for talks on how to avoid a repetition of the crowd trouble in the recent one-day series against Australia. Some of the measures already raised are high fences and only allowing the use of plastic bottles at all grounds.

On the domestic front, Alec Stewart, the England captain, will miss his last game for Surrey before the World Cup due to a family bereavement.

Stewart had hoped to return to form with the bat at Northampton but the death of his grandmother, Rose, means he will miss the game starting today. "At times like this there are more important things than cricket," Stewart said.

Mark Lathwell, the Somerset batsman, may miss the entire season because of a knee injury sustained on a pre-season tour to South Africa.

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