BRISBANE - Pakistan's captain Misbah-ul-Haq has questioned the criticism of his side emanating from home, though he did acknowledge his team had been "pretty average" thus far in the World Cup. Plenty of pundits leapt on Pakistan following defeats by India and West Indies, most notably the former fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who described Misbah as "cowardly" and "selfish" on Pakistani television after the defeat to their neighbours and rivals in their opening match at Adelaide Oval.

Ahead of their must-win encounter with Zimbabwe in Brisbane, Misbah suggested that while many state that they always support the team, few do so in practice. "We used to say that we are with the team all the time, but we never do it," he said. "You could say it's always like that in Pakistan. We are always with the winning team, but when our team is in difficult times, we're here. But the real supporters, you could say, supporters, they are there. They've got belief in the team, still supporting the team, so that's what we need. I think as the management, as senior players, as captain, this is our duty here to just really motivate those guys, youngsters to keep doing good things and just be focused. If you're positive, you are thinking you can do it, you have that belief that is the only way to just come out of these difficult times. That's what we are trying to do. We're working hard. We are working on the mental aspects also. So let's see how it goes."

Looking back, Misbah reckoned his men had found it tough to recover once India and West Indies had got on top. "You can say that the team has been under pressure the last two games, big games," he said. "Both of the teams really locked us down in the first two games. So we really have to come up good, play some good cricket and try to win this game because I think we were pretty average in the first two games, so we really need to improve our performance in all three areas of the game.

"In the first game against India, we just... what happened with us. Even with the West Indian game, we just started well in the bowling, but in the middle overs we couldn't manage to take wickets. Both of the teams just scored 300 runs, and then it was really difficult throughout the World Cup when some of the teams score 300-plus runs, it's really difficult to chase it down. So that's what we need to do.

"We just have to press all the time, even in the middle overs, to get batsmen out. So just make sure that the teams don't reach 300 if we are bowling first, and then batting and the fieldsmen especially [should back it up]. That is the most important thing. We need to take our chances, especially the catches, if we really want to be in the game all the time, and batting needs to be professional. We need to score big runs, and if one of your top four batsmen could just really play 40 overs or go to the end, you have a fair bit of chance to win the game."

There has also been scrutiny of Misbah's batting style, and the number of dot balls he has absorbed at times. A comparison with AB de Villiers' innings against the West Indies in Sydney on Friday drew the following response: "It's very easy to say there are a lot of dot balls, but that sometimes happens. When sometimes the team is really bowling well, it could be difficult or tricky for you to rotate the strike. This is what we are just trying to work out. We are just working on that, trying on that. But this is how Pakistan team is normally. And West Indian and Pakistan teams normally relying on boundaries. This is why we're trying to rotate the strike a little bit more. That could really ease on the pressure. Then it's less need to just take risks for the boundaries."

Misbah acknowledged the difficulty of coping with injuries and suspensions that have fundamentally changed his team's bowling attack before the tournament, but he maintained faith that the team could regather, much as Imran Khan's men did in 1992.

"Sometimes it's really difficult for you because we were, as a team, playing totally with a different set up. We were relying much on spin and different bowlers, especially Junaid Khan was just playing the last two or three years. He was a main bowler for us," he said. "But I think at the moment the way these three seamers are bowling, they're really bowling well. They've improved the last three, four games with the way they're bowling with the new ball, the way they're bowling in the death overs.

"I think you could say one of the best attacks in terms of pace the way they are bowling, and the middle overs we were lacking that. We're not just getting those sort of wickets due to some poor fielding. You could say missed a couple of bowlers in that. But I think, I still feel that these bowlers are good enough and on a day if luck fills them, they can really go through any batting lineup. There have been a lot of talks about 1992. The important thing, the important lesson is never give up. That's what you need to do as a player and as a team. That's what Imran Khan usually says about 1992. Even when the team was in difficult times, they never gave up.

They just kept trying, kept trying, and kept trying. At last they just managed to do what they really wanted to do in that World Cup. So, that's what we are trying to do."