Pakistan are set to meet India, on Wednesday, March 30, in a much-awaited semi-final game of ICC World Cup 2011. India are overwhelming favourites 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 England tour demoralised them even as they were looking to re-build their squad. Crucially, they lost three extremely talented players, in 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 divided into rival factions under different captaincy aspirants. On this occasion, Misbah, the only other contender for the captaincy, stepped aside in the Pathan’s favour, even as the Pakistan Cricket Board dithered on naming the skipper for the cup.
There’s a rare unity, among the Pakistani players, not seen since the days Imran Khan was at the helm. Famously, Imran answered General Zia’s call and came back from retirement to lead the team to the 1992 world cup. A half-fit Imran played as a pure batsman, coming in at number three, and his 72 in the final contributed substantially to the title that the team eventually won. This time around, Pakistan’s continued fortunes will depend on the following six men:
1. Shahid Afridi:
If there’s an analogy with Imran Khan at the 1992 event, Afridi, better known for his batting exploits, has shone with the ball, at this world cup, and he is currently the leading wicket taker, with 21 scalps in seven games. Like Imran, Afridi has impressed with his man-management skills; the players swear by their captain, and this unity, more than anything else, has helped Pakistan to the semi-finals. Afridi has been leading from the front, albeit not with the bat, but his bat could have a big role to play against India, especially if Pakistan bat second and have to chase a stiff target. Afridi has gone on record as saying that his dream was to beat India in India at the world cup.
2. Younis Khan:
Younis Khan is another senior player whose presence lends stability to the team, especially to its fragile batting line up. Younis skippered Pakistan to the T20 World Cup title in 2009, and stepped aside while claiming publicly that he wasn’t the best man for the job. With his genial self-effacing nature and his many responsible knocks for his team, Younis exudes the air of a senior 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 accomplished batsman of the team. His composure at the crease is in sharp contrast with the mercurial image of the quintessential Pakistani cricketer. Misbah came close to pulling off an improbable win against India in the 2007 T20 world cup final, in the company of Sohail Tanvir, after Pakistan had lost 7 wickets. The team will want plenty more of that resoluteness against India, on March 30.
4. Umar Gul:
Umar Gul has always had a penchant for taking wickets, while not looking threatening, in terms of pace. Gul has been a low-profile player, having played in the shadow of more accomplished bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar and Mohd Asif. Given the new ball for the first time, Gul has revelled in his new found 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 have emerged in the last few years. The extreme talent that Akmal brings to bear at the crease has often proved his undoing, accompanied as it is by an extreme sense of adventure. Afridi has 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 belie that hope.
6. Abdul Razzaq:
On his day, old war horse Abdul Razzaq is capable of just about anything, with bat and ball alike, accomplishing it all with a poker face. The semi-final against India could hinge on which Razzaq appears on the field, on March 30 — the brilliant or the indifferent.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Jinxatious is the Chief Editor of SportingAttitude.com
An avid writer, on an eclectic range of subjects, he brings to bear editorial experience garnered with a national newspaper in South-East Asia. He also has sportscasting experience, as a cricket commentator, and his passion for sport extends beyond Cricket, to Football, Tennis, and Olympic Sports.