younis-waqar-110210

National cricket coach Waqar Younis, right, and captain Shahid Afridi talk to reporters in Lahore, Pakistan, on Thursday. ((Arif Ali/Getty Images))

Pakistan winning the World Cup would help convince other teams to again play cricket in the country following a deadly attack in 2008, according to coach Waqar Younis.

Pakistan has had to play all of its home series at neutral venues after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus and a vehicle carrying match officials at Lahore almost three years ago, killing several policemen and a driver.

The incident also led to Pakistan being stripped of co-hosting the World Cup, which starts Feb. 19 and will be staged in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

"It's very important for us because our people want to see international matches," Younis said. "I'm sure if we win the World Cup, it will open a new chapter in the cricketing world."

Three Pakistan players were banned for a mininum of five years by the ICC last week on corruption charges, and Younis has praised his team for staying focused to beat New Zealand in test and one-day cricket and only narrowly lose an ODI series to South Africa.

"Despite so many controversies, the team had done well in the last year with series against South Africa and New Zealand," the coach said.

Opening bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were two of the players banned while left-arm quick Sohail Tanvir has been ruled out due to a leg injury, but Younis said he is more worried about the fielding.

"Fielding is the very big issue, we have a quite good bowling attack and the batting is gaining maturity," said Younis, who added that "even a half-fit [Shoaib] Akhtar will still be a terror."

Younis has bitter memories of the World Cup, flying home injured before Imran Khan led Pakistan to victory in the 1992 tournament and then captaining a team in 2003 that failed to advance beyond the first round.

"The God has given me another chance," he said. "Seriously, this team has the potential to win the World Cup.

"It just needs to click and gain momentum at the right time."

Pakistan will leave Thursday for Bangladesh, playing two warm-up matches before flying to Sri Lanka to start with a Group A game against Kenya on Feb. 23 at Hambantota.

Shahid Afridi will captain the team after being retained as leader less than three weeks before the tournament starts. The hard-hitting batsman didn't want to discuss the late decision by the Pakistan Cricket Board, instead focusing on what the event will mean to his countrymen.

"My coach and manager [Intikhab Alam] just backed me up and asked me to concentrate on the game," Afridi said. "Cricket is the only thing which makes our [Pakistani] people united.

"They look to us for good results and I hope not to disappoint them."