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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Friends, not foes!

Even as the captaincy debate continues to be a talking point back at home, the two men at the centre of the issue — Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq — are fully backing each other up in New Zealand.

Soon after picking up his man-of-the-match award after guiding Pakistan to a thrilling two-wicket win over New Zealand in Napier on Tuesday, Misbah declared that Afridi is doing a great job as captain.

Meanwhile, Afridi told ‘The News’ in an interview that captaincy is not an issue for him and that it doesn’t matter who leads the team in the World Cup as long as Pakistan are playing well.

Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, is of the view that what his team needs is to shift its focus completely on the World Cup after the ongoing series against the Black Caps.

Who leads Pakistan in the tournament won’t matter if they do that, believes the former Test pacer.

Afridi has been Pakistan’s one-day captain for quite some time now and is also leading the team in the current series against the Black Caps. But there have been speculations that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is mulling over the option of replacing Afridi with Misbah for the World Cup which gets underway on February 19.

The fact that Misbah led Pakistan to a 1-0 Test series triumph over New Zealand last month added more weight to his credentials. PCB’s decision to delay naming Pakistan’s World Cup captain only added fuel to fire.

The Board has come under intense fire for failing to name a captain for the World Cup with some former Test stars fearing that it would create rifts within the national team.

But Afridi doesn’t think so.

“It doesn’t matter whether I’m captain (for the World Cup) or its Misbah,” said the experienced allrounder who has led Pakistan to back-to-back wins over New Zealand in the one-day series to give them a 2-1 lead. “All of us want to give our best for Pakistan because that’s what really matters,” he said.

Afridi said that he has never run after the captaincy. “If I were so desperate for captaincy I would have never retired from Test cricket,” said Afridi referring to the fact that he was installed as Pakistan’s captain for all three formats after making a Test return last year. However, he quit the longest format again after flopping in the Lord’s Test against Australia last June.

Afridi also rejected the impression that the captaincy issue has pit Misbah — Pakistan’s vice-captain — against him. “I know that Misbah doesn’t think that way. He is a good cricketer and a very good human being.”

Misbah heaped praise on Afridi saying that as captain he has gelled the team well.

“The team has gelled well. Whoever is the captain, everyone will play for the team and for the country,” he said. “I think Shahid Afridi is doing a good job. We have no problems and whoever is the captain, we will go out there and play our game.

“Everybody is in good form. That’s a good thing for the team. Everybody’s contributing and getting scores; even the bowlers are doing well, so these are good signs (for the World Cup),” he said after hitting an unbeaten 93 in the fourth one-dayer against New Zealand in Napier on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Waqar is urging his boys to rise to the occasion.

“We have heaps of talent in Pakistan and they all want to play for Pakistan,” said Waqar. “It’s not really a matter of who is going to be captain. The key thing is their response to the occasion,” added the Pakistan coach.

“We don’t have a captain but we know we are a good unit and if we put it right (on the park) it doesn’t really matter who is captain,” he stressed.
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