The Pakistan cricket team have said they want to win the World Cup for the victims and survivors of the Peshawar school terrorist attack.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq and team mates Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Irfan and Ahsan Adil paid an emotional visit to the scene of the tragedy last week to meet injured children and their parents.
The players also went to the Combined Military Services hospital, where the children are under treatment. At least 135 children were killed and scores more injured when terrorists attacked the Army Public School on December 16.
Misbah said the courage the youngsters had shown would be a motivating factor for the team to try and win the World Cup, which begins in Australia and New Zealand next month.
“It was a great feeling. The kids gave us tremendous courage and wished the best for us in the World Cup,” he said. “The best part is that these kids have rejoined the school.
“Their spirit is an encouraging sign for the players, which is to never give up, whatever you do. And with this motivation, we will try to win the World Cup.”
Fast bowler Irfan added: “They just kept asking us to win the World Cup for them. These survivors and martyrs are going to be a big motivational factor for us to do well in the tournament.”
The role models were joined by officials from the Pakistan Cricket Board. Team manager Naved Cheema, who announced they would be making a donation to the school.
All-rounder Afridi said he was inspired by the spirit and courage of the injured children. “We are hugely motivated by these kids. I asked one kid how he survived after being shot in the chest and he replied that he is not weak-hearted,” he said.
“We want to show the same courage in the World Cup and win the event for our nation and for our people and kids like these.” He later tweeted: “Salute to the brave champions.”
Shehzad added: “It is a life-changing experience for me to visit this school and see these children back to the same place where the attack took place. They are the bravest people in the world.”
Head coach Waqar Younis gave his thoughts on Pakistan’s chances this week, and although recognising his team won’t be considered amongst the favourites to win the title, reckoned they could still spring a surprise or two.
“I’m happy we are not the favourites to be honest because it is a big pressure. We were not the favourites last time either but we played excellent cricket and reached the semi-finals,” he said.
Teams which play on those bouncy wickets like Australia and South Africa are probably more the favourites than us. But I have lots of hopes.”
Pakistan will play two one-day internationals against New Zealand on January 31 and February 3 before starting their World Cup campaign against India in Adelaide on February 15.
Waqar admitted injury problems, including a recent knock to Junaid Khan, as well as Saeed Ajmal’s absence, had hampered their aspirations.
“We had problems with our fast bowlers for few months and, of course, the recent episode with Junaid is a setback. If you have injuries you can’t move forward,” he said.
Spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed said Ajmal’s absence, due to his suspension over an illegal bowling action, will hit the team the hardest.
Ahmed – a member of Pakistan’s World Cup winning team in 1992, also held in Australia and New Zealand – said: “We were used to Ajmal.
“Ajmal has been our legend and our number one bowler; it’s very difficult to make a combination without him.”
Pakistan are also worried about the inclusion of spinning all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, who is hoping to get his own bowling action cleared later this month after he was banned last November.
“Unfortunately you all know what happened to Ajmal and Hafeez. So when you don’t have a thing which you require, then you have to rely on other things. I think whatever resources we have, we have to trust and believe in them,” Ahmed said.