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ICC World Cup 2011 Semi-Finals: 6 Men Pakistan Will Rely On Against India
Pakistan is set to meet India, on Wednesday, March 30, in a much-awaited semi-final match of the ICC World Cup 2011. India are overwhelming favorites to win the match. Pakistan were in disarray in the months leading up to the world cup; the spot-fixing scam that started during the team’s trip to England demoralized them even as they looked to rebuild their squad. Crucially, they lost three extremely talented players, namely Asif, Amir and Butt.
A successful tour of New Zealand united the men, under Afridi. Captaincy was expected to be a bone of contention, especially as in the past, the team had often been split into rival factions under different prospective captains. This time, Misbah, the only other contender for the captaincy, stepped aside in favor of the Pathan, even as the Pakistan Cricket Board grappled with naming the captain for the cup.
There is a rare unity, among the Pakistani players, not seen since the days when Imran Khan was in charge. Famously, Imran answered General Zia’s call and came back from retirement to lead the team to the 1992 world cup. Imran’s half-fit played as a pure batsman, coming in at number three, and he contributed his 72 in the final significantly to the title that the team won in the end. This time, Pakistan’s continued prosperity will depend on the following six men:
1. Shahid Afridi:
If there is an analogy with Imran Khan in the 1992 event, Afridi, who is better known for his batting prowess, has shone with the ball, in this world cup, and is currently the leading wicket taker, with 21 scalps in seven games. Like Imran, Afridi has impressed with his man control skills; the players swear by their captain, and this unity, more than anything else, has helped Pakistan to the semi-finals. Afridi has led the way before, albeit not with the bat, but his batting could have a big part to play against India, especially if Pakistan bat second and have to chase a target strict Afridi has gone on record to say that his dream was to beat India in India in the world cup.
2. Younis Khan:
Younis Khan is another senior player whose presence gives stability to the team, especially to their fragile batting line-up. Younis took Pakistan to the T20 World Cup title in 2009, and stepped aside while publicly claiming he was not the best man for the job. With his affable self-effacing nature and his many responsible shots for his team, Younis projects the air of an elder statesman, and the team will look to him for a big innings against India.
In the absence of Mohd Yousuf, Misbah-Ul-Haq is technically the most skilled batsman in the team. His eagerness at the crease is in stark contrast to the mercurial image of the quintessential Pakistani cricketer. Misbah came close to securing an unlikely victory against India in the T20 world cup final in 2007, in the company of Sohail Tanvir, after Pakistan lost by 7 wickets. The team will want a lot more of that resolve against India, on March 30.
4. Umar Gul:
Umar Gul has always had a penchant for taking wickets, although he does not look threatening, in terms of pace. Gul has been a low-profile player, having played in the shadow of more skilled bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif. Given the new ball for the first time, Gul has relished his new role as the team’s strike bowler, and Pakistan will look to him for an early breakthrough against India.
5. Umar Akmal:
Umar Akmal is arguably the most exciting young batsman to emerge in the last few years. Akmal’s extreme talent has often proved his undoing, along with an extreme sense of adventure. Afridi has named the young man a strong contender for Man-of-the-Tournament; Akmal’s under pressure innings in the league match against Australia did not dampen that hope.
6. Abdul Razzaq:
On his day, veteran warhorse Abdul Razzaq can do almost anything, with bat and ball alike, achieving it all with a poker face. The semi-final against India could depend on which Razzaq appears on the field, on March 30 – the brilliant or the indifferent.
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