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ICC World Cup 2011 Semi-Finals: 6 Men Pakistan Will Rely On Against India
Pakistan will face India in the much awaited semi-final match of ICC World Cup 2011 on Wednesday, March 30. 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 broke out during the team’s tour of England demoralized them even as they set about rebuilding their team. Crucially, they lost three extremely talented players, Asif, Amir and Butt.
A successful tour of New Zealand united the men under Afridi. The captaincy was expected to be a bone of contention, especially since in the past the team was often divided into rival factions under various captaincy aspirants. On this occasion, Misbah, the only other contender for the captaincy, stepped down in favor of Pathan, even though the Pakistan Cricket Board was hesitant to appoint a captain for the cup.
There is a rare unity among Pakistan’s players not seen since Imran Khan was at the helm. Imran famously answered General Zia’s call and came back from retirement to lead the team to the World Cup in 1992. A semi-fit Imran played as a clean batsman, batting at number three and his 72 in the final contributed greatly to the title the team eventually won . This time, Pakistan’s further fortunes will depend on the following six men:
1. Shahid Afridi:
If there is an analogy with Imran Khan at the 1992 event, Afridi, better known for his batting exploits, has shone with the ball in this World Cup and is currently the leading wicket-taker with 21 scalps in seven matches. Like Imran, Afridi impressed with his managerial skills; the players swear by their captain and this unity helped Pakistan to the semi-finals more than anything else. Afridi has led from the front, albeit not with the bat, but his batting could play a big role against India, especially if Pakistan are batting second and have to chase a tight target. Afridi stated that his dream was to beat India in India in the World Cup.
2. Younis Khan:
Younis Khan is another senior player whose presence lends stability to the team, especially to their fragile batting line-up. Younis skippered Pakistan to the T20 World Cup title in 2009 and stepped aside when he publicly claimed he was not the best man for the job. With his genial self-restraint nature and many responsible knocks for his team, Younis exudes the air of an elder statesman and the team will be expecting a big innings from him against India.
In the absence of Mohd Yousuf, Misbah-Ul-Haq is the most technically accomplished batsman in the team. His composure at the crease is in stark contrast to the mercurial image of the typical Pakistani cricketer. Misbah came close to an unlikely victory against India in the final of the 2007 T20 World Cup in the company of Sohail Tanvir after Pakistan lost by 7 wickets. The team will want a lot more of that determination against India on March 30.
4. Umar Gul:
Umar Gul has always had a penchant for taking wickets without looking threatening in terms of pace. Gul was a low-profile player, playing in the shadow of more experienced bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif. Given the new ball for the first time, Gul has reveled in his newfound role as the team’s bowler and Pakistan will expect him to make an early breakthrough against India.
5. Umar Akmal:
Umar Akmal is probably the most exciting young batsman to emerge in the last few years. The extreme talent that Akmal brings to the crease often proves his undoing, accompanied by an extreme sense of adventure. Afridi named the young man as a strong contender for man of the tournament; Akmal’s innings under pressure in the league match against Australia did not believe that hope.
6. Abdul Razzaq:
In his day, old warhorse Abdul Razzaq is capable of almost anything, with both bat and ball, all with a poker face. The semi-final against India could depend on Razzaq’s appearance on the field on March 30 – whether brilliant or indifferent.
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