Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Feb 22: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi today said his team is desperate to lift the World Cup so that international cricket can finally return to his country, which has become a pariah due to the volatile security situation.
Pakistan was one of the co-hosts of the ongoing World Cup but a terror attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009 prompted the ICC to take away its hosting right of the mega event.
Afridi said if his team wins the World Cup, international cricket could get revived in the country.
"Not playing in our country is on our minds," Afridi said on the eve of Pakistan's first match against Kenya tomorrow.
"We feel for our nation, our people who are missing the World Cup. I think this is the main thing for us, so definitely we will try our level best to win, which is very important for us, and if we do that I hope some cricket returns to our country sooner than later," he added.
Pakistan's cricket team has more often than not found itself at the centre of weird controversies, with Afridi himself serving a two-match ban for biting a ball during a Test match. But the flamboyant all-rounder said the team has gotten over the turmoil and is now a solid line-up.
"Pakistan will be a dangerous side in this World Cup. I take this World Cup campaign as a challenge. No one is considering us to make the semi-finals. It's a big challenge for us and I want to see my team making the semi-finals," Afridi said.
The last World Cup was a disaster for Pakistan as they made a first-round exit following their defeat to Ireland, and the next morning, their coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica.
A few weeks back three Pakistani cricketers, including former captain Salman Butt were banned from international cricket for their involvement in the spot-fixing controversy.
But Afridi insisted that controversies are a thing of past now.
"It was difficult in the beginning when we had all those issues. We had to rebuild and we had to lift the team again, but now a situation has come that our team is now settled and we have a good combination that people now have hopes that this team can do something," he said.
Kenya started their campaign on Saturday in disastrous fashion when they were bowled out for 69 runs against New Zealand and lost by 10 wickets.
Afridi, however, said that he wouldn't let intensity levels drop against the Kenyans, who created a massive upset in the 2003 World Cup by reaching the semi-finals.
"I love Kenya and Kenyans," said Afridi.
"I don't think we will be relaxed in any way. The first match in any tournament is important. There are a number of examples when big teams have lost. So the first match is very important and I want to play with full strength," he added.
The Kenyans had a scare this afternoon when their skipper Jimmy Kamande got hit on the cheek while batting in the nets, but he's expected to take part in tomorrow's game.
"We are here to play good cricket and be competitive. It's good to hear that the opposing captain has respect for the Kenyan team. I'll pass that message to the boys so obviously tomorrow the guys will be pumped up," all-rounder Steve Tikolo said.
Tikolo was disappointed with Kenya's display against New Zealand, but expected his side to raise its game against Pakistan.
"A top professional for me is if you are down it's the way you pick yourself up. We lost the game against New Zealand and it wasn't a good day for us," he said.
"But the good thing that came out was that the boys were very disappointed, that shows the mark of good professionals. Always we can pick ourselves up for tomorrow's game," Tikolo added. PTI