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Monday, February 14, 2011

Onus is on Afridi to show maturity and lead from front: Abbas

KARACHI: Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas reckons that the batsmen will have to fire consistently, and skipper Shahid Afridi will have to lead from the front, if the team harbours hopes of reaching the last four stage of the World Cup.

Reviewing Pakistan's batting line-up, Abbas said that Afridi needs to shed his "boom boom" tag and bat more consistently and sensibly.

"The World Cup is taking place in the sub-continent, so batting will play a key part in how Pakistan fare in this event," Abbas said.

Asked about Afridi, Abbas, without any hesitation, said that he has never regarded the pathan as a specialist batsman.

"He's a hitter. Some have opined that if he's pushed up the order, with the added responsibility of captaincy, Afridi would do better. However, I'm averse to this idea," he said.

"He can't control his natural instincts. He has never been able to do that in his career. Moreover, Afridi was a failure with the bat in all his three previous World Cup appearances. He did hit a wonderful century in Sri Lanka against the hosts in last year's Asia Cup but remains inconsistent as ever.

"Even as a hitter, I rate Abdul Razzaq higher than him in terms of reliability," he said.

The former captain hoped that Afridi bats with lot more responsibility during the mega event.

"He asked for the captaincy and got it. Now the onus is on him to show maturity and, for once, plan innings as per match situation. A captain has to lead from the front, and our batting is inexperienced compared to most teams," he noted.

On the opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad, he felt they had performed reasonably well in New Zealand.

"Shehzad is quite raw and inexperienced but remains talented and has an array of strokes at his disposal. However, whether he stands tall at the biggest stage in world cricket remains to be seen. If he manages a big innings early in the tournament, I believe he should have a good World Cup."

As for Hafeez, Abbas observed that he has been around for quite some time without cementing his place in the team.

"However, his batting, of late, has shown increased consistency and maturity. The duo is definitely not an ideal choice for Pakistan but, in my opinion, the best among the available lot."

Abbas said the under-fire Umar Akmal might not have performed very well recently but he is capable of coming good in the tournament.

"He's now a senior player and has an excellent strike-rate. We need experience and class in the middle-order and that is where he can help."

He said the way Misbah ul Haq batted in New Zealand should be a lesson to all the other batsmen.

"He clearly demonstrated that even in ODIs, it is important that at least one batsman should strive to stay as long as possible. Hope the rest learn from him."

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