DateLine: 23rd August 2007
Pakistan's new coach Geoff Lawson wants his side to become the best team in the world despite their ignominious exit from cricket's World Cup earlier this year.
The debacle -- which saw minnows Ireland send them packing from the competition's first round in March -- got worse when coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in the team hotel in Jamaica the next day.
The disastrous sequence of events led venerated captain Inzamam-ul Haq to step down and quit one-day cricket.
Now Lawson believes things can be turned around.
"The main achievement for me is to bring consistency to the players' form and performance and we will work in all areas to be world's best side," the 49-year-old Australian said.
"I am here after leaving my country and home to take up a tough assignment, and I am glad to see that the players have a desire to learn, which is enough for my confidence," Lawson told reporters after landing in Pakistan on Monday.
But not long after he touched down he discovered that four prominent cricketers -- Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam, Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat -- had put their national careers at risk by joining a rebel Indian league.
Lawson is hopeful that Yousuf will change his mind.
"Yousuf is not only worth it for his runs but also for his influence on younger players, so I hope he changes his mind," he said of the senior batsman, who set a new world record for most runs in a calendar year with 1788 in 2006.
If Yousuf and the others stick to their guns, then Lawson will have a side considerably short on experience with important series ahead against South Africa, India and Australia.
The coach disagrees that one squad member with a lot of experience, maverick paceman Shoaib Akhtar, will be tough to coach.
"As a fast bowler myself, I feel I can deal with such kind of a temperament which is normal in fast bowlers," Lawson said of Akhtar who, along with new-ball partner Mohammad Asif, was involved in a doping scandal last year.
The new coach has made light of suggestions that coaching Pakistan is a difficult proposition, saying a young Shoaib Malik as the new captain is an exciting prospect.
Woolmer's death, initially investigated as murder, perturbed Lawson. He only made up his mind to take the job after Jamaican police conceded the Pakistan coach had died of natural causes.
Gill, Woolmer's wife, also sent him reassuring words.
"She wrote positively about Pakistan, its people and their fervor for cricket -- and all that was very inspiring for me," Lawson said.
So much so that he has been reading up on Islamic history to help him adjust to Pakistani society.
The former Australian paceman, known for his perseverance and courage during his playing days, will need to rely on the same virtues in a bid to restore Pakistan's pride.
(Article: Copyright © 2007 AFP)
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