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Cricket news - We have a plan in place to win World Cup - Arthur

Umar Akmal has been better disciple wise, according to Arthur.

After heavy back-to-back defeats against Australia in the first two of the five ODIs, Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur while interacting with the media on the eve of the third match assured that there was a plan in place to have the 'core group of 15 ready and firing' for the World Cup.

The Pakistan head coach along with the national selection committee came under heavy criticism for allegedly taking Australia too light when as many as eight changes in the squad for this series was announced from the one that played South Africa in January. The subsequent losses have further added to the criticism.

"We are trying to increase the depth of Pakistan cricket," said Arthur. "We get castigated for not giving opportunities to the younger guys. Now we are giving them the opportunities are we are being castigated again. There seems to be no winning. What people need to understand is that we are a very passionate cricket team and whenever we go on the field it is to win.

"We represent 210 million people and this is so important. Myself, Inzi [Inzamam ul Haq, chairman national selection committee] and the selection panel have a plan in place which is to have our core group of 15 ready and firing to win the World Cup for Pakistan."

Ahead of this series, Pakistan decided to keep their mainstays fresh for an almost three-month-long England tour which will see them play England in a T20I and five ODIs ahead of the World Cup. Persisting with this policy, they've also rested Faheem Ashraf for the last three matches. But, when Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's stand-in skipper in the absence of Sarfraz Ahmed, said in a post-match ceremony that the team's focus was to test the bench instead of winning this series, it drew criticism.

Arthur, however, was quick to reject such a notion when asked to comment on Malik's statement.

"Every time we play for Pakistan, we are playing to win," he noted. "You ask the guys in the dressing room, I am a very bad loser. We hate losing. We are representing a very proud cricket nation and we never want to lose. We are testing our bench strength, but we will never sacrifice our intensity and the will to win. We are calling this a tour of opportunity as we are trying to build a nucleus of players who are ready to come in when our frontline players are out-of-form or injured."

In their bid to include more depth to their spin arsenal ahead of the World Cup, Pakistan took Yasir Shah to the UAE for this series. But, once again, he failed to make an impact in colored clothing. Across the two matches, Yasir picked up only one wicket - Usman Khawaja in the second ODI - and gave 116 runs. Prior to this series, in eight matches, he had taken only three wickets.

"I am not looking for any excuses, but Sharjah was incredibly flat," Arthur said while speaking of the leggie. "There wasn't on offer for our spinners and seamers. Same was for Australia. I am hoping here that it grips in spins more here and hopefully Yasir comes into play. The key is that we want our spinners to be challenging both edges. At the moment both of them are challenging only one - that's when you become predictable. I am hoping he is able to squeeze the flow of runs here in the middle and he is able to show everyone his google here because he does bowl it and bowls is fairly well."

Alongside Yasir, Umar Akmal, who had remained in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few years, had also returned on the basis of a substantial PSL. With Pakistan lacking a power-hitter, this serves as a crucial opportunity for him to push his case to be on the plane to England.

While commending the betterment in his discipline and attitude, Arthur revealed that Akmal will have to up his fitness standards to be able to go to the World Cup.

"Discipline-wise definitely [he has been better now]," he said. "I can't sit here and fault him. He has done very well since he has been in this environment. He knows what the standards of this environment are and what is required of him to secure a berth [in the side] going forward. I can't fault his attitude and the way he has returned.

"He has to do work a bit more work on his fitness like the other new players that have come in. To be eligible to go to the World Cup, he needs to pass the fitness test that we have in Lahore on April 14."

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