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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Afridi and Co can shock the best in World Cup

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Finally, it has been decided; Shahid Afridi will lead Pakistan in the forthcoming World Cup. It’s an unnecessarily prolonged yet sane decision on part of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) simply because change of guard on the eve of the World Cup could have turned out to be disastrous, to say the least, given the unpredictable ways of Pakistan cricket.
Not taking anything away from Misbah-ul-Haq, who led the Test side astutely during the back-to-back South Africa and New Zealand series besides being prolific with the bat, it must be said that Afridi is the right man for the job for the World Cup because he has that aggressive attitude about himself and his game that is required to motivate the players when the chips are down.
Fortunately, things clicked for Afridi just at the right time as he began to find his feet, thus inspiring his men to thrilling series win in the six-match ODI series against the Kiwis.
After a series of nasty controversies that virtually crippled Pakistan cricket last year, our players finally managed to give some good news to to the nation in 2011 by securing the Test and ODI series in New Zealand.
Looking at the broader picture, the whole nation should now get behind Afridi and his team and give them confidence to excel in the game’s showpiece event that starts on February 19.
With all the contestants of the 14-nation extravaganza set to converge on the sub-continent, one would like to stress upon four key ingredients which can steer Afridi and Company to glory and they are: Unity, Courage, Intelligence and Leadership.
Former wicketkeeper Saleem Yousuf rightly pointed out recently that Pakistan players are at their best when united.
When unity permeates within a group, every member feels the responsibility to make extra efforts for achieving the goal and perform in tandem.
If one reviews the recently-completed ODI series in New Zealand, it becomes obvious that though no player maintained a very high degree of consistency, almost every member of the touring side chipped in at crucial stages of the games to bring glory for Pakistan.
When I mention the word ‘intelligence’, it refers to the reaction and the attitude required in respective situation of modern-day limited-overs cricket. Losing from winning positions has been a trait with Pakistan cricket teams and, needless to say, the margin for tactical errors in any sport’s premier competition such as the World Cup is always very small.
Whatever blunders Afridi or the Pakistan team management made in the first and last ODI in New Zealand must not be repeated in the World Cup. That’s what intelligence is all about — delivering the best in crunch games while avoiding mistakes made in the past.
Selecting the playing eleven, making the right decision after winning the toss, correct use of Power Play, etc should come about with the consent of the captain, his deputy, coach and the senior members of the team so that a victory is ensured.
Afridi and his men will also have to show a lot of courage in the World Cup – the sort that former skipper Imran Khan displayed in 1992 or Steve Waugh for the Aussies in 1999 – leading from the front with own excellence, making bold decisions and inculcating the never-say-die spirit among the fellow players.
Afridi has proved on a number of occasions in the past and that he can motivate the players to achieve the unthinkable, but it is essential for him to lead from the front and inspire his team in the World Cup.
One sincerely hopes that the disturbing bans against key players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir do not deter Pakistan in their quest for the World Cup. The experts of the game are tipping India, England, South Africa and Sri Lanka as the semifinalists but if they remain focused, Pakistan is fully capable of springing some big surprises in the mega event.
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