World Cup news The Pakistan gloveman is under pressure, while Mahela Jayawardene says Sri Lanka has the best bowling line-up at the World Cup.
Kamran Akmal's abysmal wicketkeeping comes under scrutiny once again
PALLEKELE, SRI LANKA // Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, is not willing to dump his struggling wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal even after a woeful performance behind the stumps that played a key part in Pakistan suffering one of its worst ever defeats in the World Cup.
New Zealander Ross Taylor went onto to score a career-best 131 off 124 balls yesterday, with Akmal twice letting the Kiwi batsman off the hook — on 0 and four.
The 110-run margin of defeat came close to Pakistan's biggest ever loss in the World Cup when England recorded a 112-run victory in 2003 at Centurion, South Africa.
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"Without a doubt, he dropped catches which really cost us the game," Younis said of Akmal's poor work behind the stumps. "We are in the middle of the tournament, we can't really sort of kick him out at the moment."
Akmal also dropped Scott Styris, which would have given Shahid Afridi, the captain, his 16th wicket in the tournament.
Ian Chappell, the former Australian batsman now commentating at the World Cup, was as blunt as ever. "If his batting was as good as [Sir] Don Bradman's," he said on air, "he couldn't score enough runs to make up for what he costs them with his keeping."
Akmal is Pakistan's latest attempt at a batsman who keeps wicket. He dethroned Rashid Latif and Moin Khan in 2004 and has been behind the stumps since, resisting all attempts to drop him.
Afridi told Pakistan's private television channel Geo News that the younger Akmal - Umar - could replace Kamran at the World Cup. "It is very much an option and we might try it in the next game," Afridi said. "We have five days before the next game so whatever is better for the team we will try it."
Kamran has a one-day international batting average of 27.25 and has scored 2,835 runs in more than 100 appearances. His elegant batting is widely admired, but his wicketkeeping has overshadowed his batting performances of the past two years.
Pakistan plays Zimbabwe on March 14 and victory could ensure them a place in the quarter-finals before the game against Australia on March 19 in Colombo.
Meanwhile, Pakistan cricketing legend and their 1992 World Cup winning captain Imran Khan fears that their crushing Group A defeat against New Zealand on Tuesday could lead to the team self-destructing in this year's tournament. He has had a Q&A session with Reuters:
What should captain Shahid Afridi do now after this 110-run defeat?
"I just hope that they don't press the panic button. If they panic they will destruct and their World Cup campaign will be in tatters. You could see the players were nervous and tense. They need to recover quickly."
So what went wrong?
"I say it is good that this defeat has come at this stage of the tournament. The management must now rethink their team combinations and define new roles for the players. The batting order has also been wrong. You can't have your two best players, Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, batting low down the order."
How big a setback is it?
"We shouldn't panic. The format is such we have made the quarter-finals and it is the knockout matches that will matter. The team must now start preparing for the quarter-final."
Should wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal be dropped now?
"There is no other choice right now so the management must persist with Kamran, make him train hard and shore up his confidence. Any more experiments will only trigger more trouble."
Jayawardene happy with Sri Lanka's bowling variety
Meanwhile, Mahela Jayawardene, the vice-captain, says Sri Lanka has more variety in their bowling than most of the teams competing in the World Cup.
Jayawardene believes the co-host's bowling has been strengthened since paceman Lasith Malinga recovered from a back strain and took six wickets — including a hat-trick — against Kenya.
Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara made up for Malinga's absence in the first two matches and experienced fast bowler Dilhara Fernando is yet to figure in any of the co-host's four Group A matches.
And then there's Muttiah Muralitharan.
Jayawardene says it's "rather a healthy headache than a nasty one" for the team when it comes to picking final playing XI.
Davis stands in for his 100th ODI
Umpire Steve Davis is standing in his 100th one-day international in the World Cup Group B match between India and Netherlands at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
The 58-year-old Australian, who made his umpiring debut in 1992, is the 14th man to officiate in 100 ODIs or more. The list is headed by South Africa's Rudi Koertzen, who stood in 209 one-day games.
Davis said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's match he was proud and honoured to reach the milestone.
ICC Umpires' and Referees' Manager Vince van der Bijl said Davis "manages to strike that balance between enjoyment and dedication."
India: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Piyush Chawla, Ashish Nehra.
Netherlands: Eric Szwarczynski, Wesley Barresi, Tom Cooper, Ryan ten Doeschate, Alexei Kervezee, Bas Zuiderent, Tom de Grooth, Peter Borren (captain), Bradley Kruger, Mudassar Bukhari, Pieter Seelaar.
Umpires: Steve Davis, Australia, and Bruce Oxenford, Australia.
TV umpire: Billy Doctrove, West Indies.
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle, Sri Lanka.