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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pakistan let it slip through their fingers, literally

 At some point over the next couple of days, Pakistan will come to understand just how close they actually got - with this side whom few gave a chance - to getting to a World Cup final. The margin of defeat looks comfortable enough but there wasn't a whole lot between them and India, ultimately, other than a safe pair of hands somewhere, anywhere in the field.

There are many frustrating ways to lose a game, let alone one as big as this, but few gnaw away at reason and rationality quite like those lost to dropped catches. In this age of the instant vent and search for a "match ka mujrim" (criminal of the match), Misbah-ul-Haq's innings is already being pilloried in Pakistan for its poor pacing. The reaction is misplaced and overdone, for the pitch wasn't given to fluent strokeplay, particularly after the ball softened, and there had already been some momentum-losing poor shots earlier from the openers.

Blaming the batting in any case misses the point. Pakistan are never comfortable chasers and 261, in a World Cup semi-final, at the home of the opposition is an entirely different kind of 261 from the ones they might chase down in a bilateral series in the UAE. The point is, they shouldn't have been chasing that much in the first place.

There are some truisms in cricket that Pakistan quite brazenly and joyously ignore; leading among them are those to do with catching. They win matches? Yes, but not as much as scoring runs and taking wickets, thank you. They once dropped Graeme Smith five times as he ground out 65 in an ODI in Lahore, and still won the match comfortably. They dropped seven catches in an innings in New Zealand in 2009-10 and won the Test comfortably. These are to recall just two examples from a sizeable sample.

But there are some rules in life you cannot defy, some batsmen you really cannot give a chance to. And if you give Sachin Tendulkar four chances - not one but four! Tendulkar! - you cannot expect to win a game, no matter what else you do. It was one of Tendulkar's least fluent recent innings as well, but in the drops of Misbah, Younis Khan - their two best catchers -Kamran Akmal and Umar Akmal, went the game. It is as simple as that.

It wasn't - as it never is - just the runs that came after the drops, though Tendulkar did add 58 runs after the first chance went down. It was the mood that was lost each time. The first spill, with Tendulkar on 27, came as Pakistan were beginning to regain their senses after Virender Sehwag's early blast. Tendulkar had just survived two torrid overs from Saeed Ajmal and a seminal moment was at hand.

The second, on 45, came the over after Gautam Gambhir had gone. Momentum again was at stake. The third came a few overs after Wahab Riaz's two-wicket over left India in a position of real danger. All chances, incidentally, were created by the tournament's leading wicket-taker, the man to whom Pakistan look for inspiration, for breakthroughs, for controlling the middle overs of the game, their captain, a man who thrives on taking precisely such wickets, Shahid Afridi.

The effects of this on a game cannot possibly be calculated, except to say the obvious, that it changes everything and goes beyond runs alone. Who knows what target Pakistan could have been chasing? There was another, less important, miss later, on 81, but a miss nonetheless and none of the outfield catches were difficult.

"We made some big mistakes in fielding, we dropped some catches, and catches for Sachin," Afridi said. He then quipped, referring to his much-discussed phantom statement in the build-up of trying to prevent a 100th international Tendulkar hundred, "I told you he wouldn't score a hundred." It was gallows humour.

It is sad - but also predictable - that ultimately it came down to Pakistan's fielding, for that is the one area they have really worked hard on in training and actually thought about methodically, making sure for once of placing the right fielders in the right places. Younger players have come in who genuinely enjoy fielding, a couple of older ones have led the way.

They have been very sharp as they were against Australia but also still capable of sudden, unexpected tragi-comedy as against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa in the second half of the hosts' chase and today. Overall, they have been considerably better than before, in particular with the energy they have brought on to the field. But there is much, much more to be done.

If they are skilled and contrary enough to get away with it against most sides and players, to expect to do so against the game's greatest modern-day batsman, in such a setting, is to expect miracles.

They return as heroes

It was a match that will live long in my memory.
Pakistan slipped out of the World Cup after a nerve-wracking loss to archrivals India.They now return home as heroes nonetheless.
The defeat is not under debate: we lost fair and square. However, the team that returns home is now a special one. They are special because they wore green and marched into the yard in Mohali, with their heads high, sending shock waves of intimidation to their opponents.
Shahid Afridi’s leadership and the team’s performance in the 2011 World Cup was awe-inspiring. They continued to defy all odds, defeating the unlikeliest of opponents and losing when defeat seemed implausible. They lived up to their tag of being the most unpredictable team in the world. It makes them one of the most entertaining sides to watch in the game of cricket. No one can deny that fact.
It is important to go back in time and look at the haywire journey our cricket team has gone through. The odds were against us all the way, but we still managed to shock many and get into the semi-finals.
Think of the turmoil the Pakistan team has been through. The 2007 World Cup was marked with the sudden death of our coach Bob Woolmer. This upset was followed by a year which saw no Tests in 2008. This was then followed by the Sydney debacle. And we were rocked by one of the most damaging scandals in cricket history when three of our players were banned on grounds of involvement in spot-fixing.
Our talented team was on the brink of utter collapse.
Yet here we saw them yesterday, walking right into the PCA ground with smiles and twinkles of glory in their eyes. They stood before millions of fans ready to fight India in a World Cup semi-final battle. This is a journey which deserves nothing less than applause, appreciation and love.
They are our heroes. Our heroes who won many but lost one or two. They are our heroes, regardless of whether they come bearing the golden trophy or not. We should welcome them as heroes, and nothing less.

WC defeat should be probed, says Zulqarnain

Former Pakistani wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haidar questioned the defeat in semi-final of the World Cup 2011 against India and asked the higher authorities to probe the poor performance of the players.

In his status on social networking website Facebook, he asked the higher management of Pakistan cricket team to investigate the poor performance of the players during the big match. He said who had criticised him in the past and declared him a psycho patient be asked to probe the incumbent team players.

He said the players should take oath on the holy Quran that they were not involved in any kind of match fixing. He said he would soon expose the Pakistani players who were involved in match fixing.

Earlier, he claimed that some Pakistani players were involved in match fixing but due to threats by unidentified bookies he did not reveal the names of those players. Last year, Zulqarnain abandoned the Pakistani team during a series against South Africa at a neutral place.

He said he went to London as he received life threats from some unknown bookies. Instead of probing the matter, Pakistan Cricket Board termed him a psycho patient.

Sania wins domestic 'war' with Shoaib

NEW DELHI: Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, who had jokingly tweeted she was at 'war' with husband - and former Pakistan cricket captain - Shoaib Malik, praised the defeated semifinalists on Thursday.

Mirza, as well as Indo-Pak tennis partners Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, had cheered on their teams from the United States where all had been involved in the Miami Masters tournament.

"Bad luck to Pakistan..fantastic win by India but job only half more to I can go practice in peace..GO INDIA," Mirza wrote her Twitter account.

She later tweeted: "As for today the men in blue brought smiles to a billion ppl:) Now to support an Indian (Rohan Bopanna) and a Pakistani (Aisam Qureshi) playing together in Miami."

Mirza added: "Makes you wonder what they (Pakistan) could achieve with this talent and without all the problems and controversies surrounding them!!"

Shoaib, who was left out of the 15-man World Cup squad, tweeted to his wife: "I wish I would have played today's match. The boys in green should walk with their heads held high."

Davis Cup tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, also playing in the United States, believes India will win Saturday's final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.

He wrote on Twitter: "Big day.. One more to go for India. Can't fight destiny folks. Everything going our way. Catches, home field advantage, power play and so on."

PCB chairman roots for Indo-Pak series

Not talking on the performance of any particular player in the world cup semi final clash against India, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ijaz Butt said changes in the team will be made if needed. Butt, who was going back to Pakistan through the Attari road route said, “I think the Indian te 
am played better cricket and they won. Although the Pakistani team has also done well in this tournament to reach the semi finals, but they could have played better in the match against India.”
On reactions back home, Butt said, “People must take it as a game and should not react with anger. They should understand that the team tried its best, but India had a better day.”
Butt, who was hopeful of more cricket between India and Pakistan in future, said, “Even the Prime Ministers of both the nations had talked on this and we cricket boards also feel that both the nations must play regularly. We hope that bilateral series resumes soon and we see quality cricket.”
On a question regarding changes in Pakistani team and especially the way some players played in the semifinals, Butt said, “I won’t debate on the performance of any particular player. But changes will be made if there is need.”

PM to invite Pakistan cricket team on their return

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will invite the members of national cricket team on their return to Pakistan to acknowledge their performance in the Cricket World Cup and reaching in the semi-final. A spokesman of the PM House said the gesture is to encourage the players for even better results in the future.
He added that Wednesday’s semi-final match in Mohali, provided a very useful opportunity to the leadership of Pakistan and India to get together and discuss the whole gamut of bilateral relations. 
The Prime Minister, he said, has termed his interaction with the Indian leadership as a milestone for opening up a new chapter of good neighbourly relations and cooperation between the two countries. 
He said the warmth and hospitality shown by the Indian leadership and people to the Prime Minister, his entourage as well as to Pakistan’s cricket team, were reflective of the shared sentiments of goodwill between the two peoples.

Anti-climatic end to Shoaib's intriguing

A career that began so promisingly 14 years ago with Shoaib Akhtar refusing to take off his first Pakistan kit for three days, ended with a dressing down on Wednesday when the fast bowler was reduced to being a 'waterboy'.
The man who was nicknamed the "Rawalpindi Express" for his ability to bowl at high speeds had been hoping for one last hurrah in Wednesday's high-octane World Cup semi-final against traditional foes India.
However, Pakistan's defeat by India brought one of the most controversial careers in cricket to a screeching halt.
For Shoaib, there will be no more highs of taking wickets or winning matches for his country. When he wakes up on Thursday, all he will be left with is a sackful of memories.
"The best moment was when I got the first kit for the test match and there was a huge star on my chest," an emotional Shoaib told reporters after announcing his decision to quit two weeks ago.
"I wore that kit and I slept in that kit and I just couldn't believe that I was going to wake up in that kit. I didn't take if off for three days."
Luckily for Shoaib, his 46-test and 163-ODI appearances ensured he received a regular supply of team strips for almost a decade and a half but from Thursday, there will be no more new kits arriving on his doorstep.
But no one can deny the impact, good or bad, he made in the sport. The 35-year-old made his debut in a test match against West Indies in 1997 and immediately caught everyone's attention as the fastest bowler of his generation.
Considered by many as the heir to Pakistan fast bowling greats Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, Shoaib disappointed most with a career blighted by injuries and controversies stemming from his indiscipline.
His tearaway pace was a threat to many a batsman around the world but his figures failed to justify his immense talent.
He finished with 178 test wickets and 247 ODI scalps -- a record he will not be too pleased with.
Ball-tampering allegations, numerous disciplinary issues, hitting team mate Mohammad Asif with a bat in 2007, doping accusations and several other controversies and injuries took the focus away from his often devastating bowling.
Even at this World Cup, reports emerged Shoaib had angrily kicked his team mate Kamran Akmal after the wicketkeeper had dropped New Zealand's Ross Taylor twice in the space of three deliveries during a group stage match on March 8.
The Pakistan camp played down the clash but that match proved to be Shoaib's last international outing.
He was reduced to carrying drinks to his team mates on the field during the semi-final against India on Wednesday, an end the fast bowler would have despised when he announced his retirement midway through the showpiece event.
"It feels like it's my first death," he told reporters about his decision to quit.
"I have taken this decision after much thought. Pakistan's last match in this World Cup will also be my last."
Shoaib's obsession with pace during his career was often detrimental to the team's cause as he lost control and proved to be expensive on occasions.
His long run-up often put Pakistan at risk of incurring a penalty for their slow over rate and it irked many of his coaches over the years.
On a number of occasions, he was not considered a team man and was rather portrayed as the problem child of Pakistan cricket with a penchant for night life.
But the strongly-built Shoaib at his peak, running in from about 35 yards out with his long hair furling in the wind, was enough to catch the imagination of cricket lovers across the world.
He demonstrated his talent in the series against India in 1999 when he took eight wickets in the Asian Test Championship in Calcutta, bowling Rahul Dravid and then yorking Sachin Tendulkar next ball with two inswinging deliveries.
Shoaib was a huge draw at the 1999 World Cup in England where he finished with 16 wickets as Pakistan reached the final, which they eventually lost to Australia.
But subsequently the dark phase in his career followed and he found himself in and out of the team due to reasons that were not strictly cricketing.
If disciplinary issues were most frequent, the phase in 2006 when he was banned for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid -- in an internal drugs test carried out by the Pakistan Cricket Board -- was the most embarrassing.
A three-man appeals tribunal later cleared him of the doping offences but the fast bowler never came back to his best

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DADA Haathi prediction for 2nd Semi Final: Pakistan vs India

Boom boom, not doom doom

Boom boom, not doom doom
Cricketers have had several nicknames (sometimes pet names) which are remembered long after they have departed. The first that comes to my mind is that of Fred Truman, who was a fast bowler of epic proportions. His speed could only be matched with his fiery temperament, which was why he was called Fiery Freddie Truman.
We had Merry Max (Maqsood Ahmad), who was born 30 years too early, for he was fond of hitting the ball mercilessly. ‘Hit out or get out’ was his motto and each time he came to the crease, things perked up. Even sleepy radio commentators woke up. He played Tests but he was meant for what was initially called, ‘instant cricket’. No prizes for guessing that the term was used for One Day cricket, somewhat disdainfully by the purists, who thought that only five- or six-day games were real cricket.
Merry Max (not Marry Max) was once out at the score of 99 (his highest) when playing against India in the 1954-55 series. A cricket fan, addicted to radio commentary, got his first and last heart attack. Subhash Gupte, who took five wickets in a deadly spell, including Merry Max’s prize wicket, said that if he had even the slightest inkling about the tragic turn of events, he would have postponed sending his Pakistani friend back to the pavilion, until he completed what would have been his only 100.
Few would remember that pop singer Nazia Hasan’s second (or was it third?) album was titledBoom Boom. But unluckily, its sales and popularity were no patch for her earlier one – Young Tarang.
We then heard of the dual word, ‘Boom Boom’ when Shahid Afridi punished the Indian bowlers with sixes after sixes in New Delhi. He had earlier created record for the fastest century in ODIs in Kenya in the second match that he played (in the first one, he didn’t get a chance to bat).
Afridi has surpassed Sanath Jayasuriya’s what seemed to be an inaccessible record of the highest number of sixes, a few months ago. Statisticians will tell you how many the two scored. All I know is that our flamboyant (read, unpredictable) batsman crossed the Sri Lankan’s record in fewer matches.
The wheel of fortune has completed one full circle. Afridi was selected to play for Pakistan because the leg spinner, Mushtaq Ahmed was unfit. Wasim Akram recalls that when he saw a well-built, fair-looking lad hitting Waqar Younis mercilessly above the ropes during practice, he decided to ball to the mercurial young man himself. I must confess I got the same treatment from him.
But now Afridi is much more invaluable as a bowler than as a batsman. His guile and his variety is amazing. While these lines are being written (on the eve of the semi-final) he has taken the highest number of wickets in the current edition of the World Cup, twenty-one being the current number. He has also proved to be a competent captain in the shorter forms of the game.
Years ago, while  waiting for a flight from San Francisco airport, I ran into three Indian students, who asked me if I was an Indian, to which I said I was from their neighbouring country. “Oh! So you are from the land of Boom Boom Shahid Afridi?”
“Do you like to watch him bat?” I queried.
“Yes, we love to see him bat but not when he is playing against our boys,” was the reply.
Boom Boom was the nickname given to him by none other than Ravi Shastri, while he was commentating on an India-Pakistan ODI. What happens when Afridi doesn’t score? They love him so much that no one says, ‘Doom Doom’.
When I was writing a book on the charismatic cricketer for Liberty Books, Karachi, we racked our brains and finally thought the title of the book should be ‘Boom Boom Shahid Afridi‘. You know what? The book sold very well. There was a slight drop in the sales when he bit the ball but then when he started taking wicket after wicket, its sales have taken an upward swing once again. So, anything that has the tag of Boom Boom is unpredictable but never, I repeat never, dull.

It has always been our desire to play in India: Afridi

A relaxed Shahid Afridi was upbeat and in high spirits during his interaction with the media, ready with a quip and the right word during a lively session in which he was at his witty, charming best.

Pakistan chose to take Tuesday off ahead of the semifinal tie against India. “Why, don’t you like it?” he asked a journalist. “We have worked hard, we wanted to take the day off today so that we can save our lives for tomorrow. It might be a new thing, but new things should keep happening, right?”

The Pakistani captain said his team was excited about playing in India. “India began as one of the favourites and they have played very well,” he observed. “But my team combination is very good, all the boys are enjoying themselves and there is no pressure on them. We have played above our expectations.

“Whatever be the result, it is a great occasion that we are playing in India. It has always been our desire to play in India. We are enjoying ourselves because the people here want to see us play and the people in Pakistan want to see India play there. We have tried to make this relationship stronger and I am hopeful relations will be even better in future. Whatever the result, the cricket should be good and people should enjoy the game. It’s a big thing for us to play in India. We know how important this game is for both teams and we are well prepared for this.”

The World Cup was huge for the people of Pakistan, Afridi stressed. “It’s very important. This World Cup matters a lot to us and we are trying to bring cricket back to Pakistan. People talk about pressure here, but if you enjoy what you are doing, you will perform better. The coaches are doing a great job with the youngsters and all my senior boys are talking to the youngsters about how to handle the pressure. I am not really concerned, I know they will enjoy the crowd.”

As captain, this was his biggest game to date, Afridi agreed. “Obviously, to play in India against India is a huge challenge for me,” he said. “I take up the challenge whole-heartedly and our full effort will be geared towards playing well. Whatever be the result, I want to see effort and fight from every member of the team.”

Several members of the Pakistani team have stressed on team spirit and unity in the lead-up to the semifinal. “I get emotional during team meetings in a bid to lift the boys, and from what I have seen, they do lift themselves!” he laughed. “We are an emotional nation, in fact both our nations are. I try to say stuff to motivate the boys and help them play good, positive cricket. I don’t think this unity is because of me, I don’t want to take any credit for it. When the team does well, all 15 players do well and that’s when it becomes a unit.”

Have you read this, Mr PM?

Perhaps if Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reads excerpts from former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf's memoir called, In the Line of Fire, he would have a re-think on his invitation to the present Pak leadership, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari about inviting them to Mohali to watch the India vs Pak cricket semi-final tomorrow.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) shaking hands
with his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani

In his memoir, the general, known as Mush, currently in exile in London, spewed venom about India, mocking the country's fake encounters (during war) and laughing at gallantry awards which he said were a figment of the Indian army's imagination.

On page 301 of his book, Musharraf talks about an Indo-Pak cricket match he watched while in India. Even at that time, Mush claimed Indian PM Manmohan Singh invited him to the match.

An excerpt from the book reads, "My next meeting with Manmohan Singh occurred when the Pakistani cricket team toured Indian and he invited me to one of the games. I accepted the invitation and went to a one-day match in Delhi on April 18, 2005. I travelled via Ajmer Sharif the visit that I had missed after the Agra summit. This, I thought, was an auspicious beginning."

"April 18, 2005, began with the cricket match. Unfortunately, for my hosts, the match turned out to be an embarrassment for India because one of Pakistan's star batsmen, Shahid Afridi, clobbered virtually every ball that the Indians bowled at him.

Many of his hits headed straight for our VIP enclosure. Like any normal cricket fan, I wanted to jump out of my seat shouting and clapping, but I had to control my enthusiasm in deference to my hosts. Before the match was over, we left for our discussions. It goes without saying that I was dying to get back to the exciting match.

So during our official one-on-one meeting I suggested to the prime minister that we go back to see the last hour of the match and also distribute the prizes. I made him agree in spite of his concerns about security. By then, as the meeting continued, my staff kept sending in notes informing me about the collapse of the Indian team when its turn came to bat.

India's entire team got out long before the end of the game. Tightly repressing any outward signs of my inner joy, I had to inform Manmohan Singh that the Indian team's batting had been wasted and there was no point in another visit to the stadium. "Boys will be boys," some might say, but they obviously don't know cricket or the importance of a match between Pakistan and India."

Then Musharraf says on the next page, "I invited Manmohan Singh to Pakistan and he accepted readily.

As I write this in June 2006, we are still awaiting his visit. The Indian cricket team toured Pakistan in early 2006. This gave India's prime minister an opening but he didn't take it, apparently because Indian officialdom felt that our discussions were far too serious to be missed with something as, "frivolous" as cricket.

As it turned out, India won four out of five one-day international games. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have attended one of the games that India won, and we would have been even!"

Indo-Pak series very soon: PCB chairman

Bringing hope for the die hard cricket fans of both the nations, Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, Ijaz Butt said that in very near future we can expect a full cricket series between India and Pakistan. Butt, who entered India via Attrai Border to watch the semi final match along with his family, But 
t said, "I have come here all the way to cheer my team and hope they do well. The morale of the team is very good and I hope that they do well in the semifinal as well."
On a question, the PCB chairman said, "This world cup means a lot to the Pakistan cricket. A victory here will really pick up things back home and it can be a big plus for Pakistan cricket."
Not complaining about lesser number of visas and tickets to Pakistani fans, the PCB chairman said, "No I think the BCCI has given us all the help and there are no complaints. They did whatever could be done about tickets."
Although many people back home want to come but that is not possible, he added.
On cricket relations between both India and Pakistan, the PCB chairman said, "The cricketing relations between both countries have always been good and their has never been an issue. I hope this year only we may have a full Indo-Pak series including Test match and one day internationals."
Butt, who avoided political queries, however said that the recent comment by a pak minister on match fixing is not going to effect the performance of the team." The Pakistani team is in great form and they have distractions and will be under no pressure, he added.

25 acres of land if Pakistan beat India

Pakistan's Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced that each member of the national cricket team will be given 25 acres of fertile land if they beat India in the high-profile World Cup semi-final match.

"My government will give 25 acres of fertile land to each member of the team as a prize if they beat India," Sharif said during a news conference on Monday. 

"The Pakistani cricket team deserves appreciation from the nation for displaying outstanding performance in different matches of the World Cup. We are praying for its success," he said.

Sharif advised the Pakistani players not to come under pressure for the crucial game against arch-rival India. Pakistan will play against India tomorrow in high-voltage semi-final match of the World Cup in Indian
Punjab, not far from the Pakistani Punjab

Shoaib Akhtar set for shock return as Pakistan look for firepower to earn spot in final

Pakistan are considering playing their controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar in Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final against India after his international career appeared to be over.
Shoaib, 35, will retire after the tournament but has not played since Pakistan’s loss to New Zealand in the group stages.
Akhtar fell out of favour after an argument with wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who dropped Ross Taylor twice in one over. Taylor went on to score a match-winning century.
In the thick of it: Akhtar could still have a role to play for Pakistan at the World Cup
In the thick of it: Akhtar could still have a role to play for Pakistan at the World Cup
‘I would like to see him play but we just want to make sure he is match fit and ready for such a big game. We will test him out in the final nets,’ said captain Shahid Afridi.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has been urging Afridi and coach Waqar Younis to take a chance with Shoaib.
Pakistan manager Intikhab Alam went one step further by hinting that Akhtar is available to play and could start in hotly anticipated semi.
Last hurrah: Akhtar is to retire from international cricket after the tournament
Last hurrah: Akhtar is to retire from international cricket after the tournament
‘Shoaib has been fully involved in match practice and is available for selection. He’s very much part of the squad and there is no question about his motivation or enthusiasm to play in this important game. Akhtar is ready for the semi-final.’
Meanwhile Pakistan’s interior minister has apologized to the country’s cricket team after saying he was keeping a ‘close watch’ on them ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final against India.
Rehman Malik was quoted on Monday as saying he had warned the team ‘there should be no match fixing’ and that the players were being closely monitored.
Team captain Shahid Afridi confirmed that Malik had telephoned him to apologise for his comments, which came just two days before the crunch clash with India.
Malik said Monday he was ‘sure the team has very clean members’ but that he couldn’t take any risks after the spot-fixing scandal last year which led to long-term bans for Pakistan players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer.
The three players were found guilty of accepting bribes in return for making sure no-balls were bowled at certain times during a test match in England last August.
Afridi said he did not want to comment further on the matter.

Pakistan star Shoaib Akhtar eyes 'dream' win over India

Shoaib Akhtar feels it is critical that Pakistan beat India in Wednesday's World Cup semi-final to help draw a line under a difficult couple of years.
Pakistan have endured a series of setbacks since the attack on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore in 2009.
And the veteran paceman told BBC Sport: "Pakistan need victory more than any other nation right at this moment.
"We have been through so much but we are united. We want to achieve our dream."
Aside from the national team's triumph at the 2009 ICC World Twenty20, Pakistan cricket has been blighted by controversy in recent times.
The country was suspended from hosting international cricket following the Sri Lanka incident and then stripped of its share of World Cup matches.
Things went from bad to worse in a disastrous 2010 in which spot-fixing allegations surfaced during the tour to England.
But they have defied expectations to reach the last four and now face neighbours India in Mohali for a place in Saturday's World Cup final.
Having played all six group matches in Sri Lanka and their quarter-final in Bangladesh, this will be Pakistan's first one-day international on Indian soil since November 2007.
"It's a very important game for us to win and obviously we're uite geared up after what we've been through over the last year or so," said 35-year-old Shoaib, who will retire from international cricket after the tournament.
"Pakistan cricket has been cornered for right or for wrong reasons. The Sri Lankan attacks and cricket being taken away from us, the World Cup going out of the country and then the fixing scandal.
"People have given up on us. They thought this was the end of Pakistan cricket and that we would never survive. We were quite demoralised by their behaviour. We've been neglected, we've been avoided by people. The whole team was down."
Pakistan opened their campaign with a 205-run victory over Kenya before seeing off Sri Lanka, Canada, Zimbabwe and Australia to finish top of Group A.
A 10-wicket thrashing of West Indies, allied to India's five-wicket win against Australia, set up Wednesday's eagerly anticipated encounter at the 28,000-capacity Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
"We are after glory, we are after the dreams that we have seen together as a team and we want to achieve this," stated Shoaib, omitted for the wins over Zimbabwe, Australia and West Indies after going for 70 runs in the defeat by New Zealand.
We've seen this dream together, we want to achieve this glory and we want to make this come true. We will give everything, we're not going to hold back. It's not about stupid aggression, it's about the glory we are after - we want to go to Bombay [Mumbai, for the final]."I don't understand people who say the Pakistan team is not united -this is the strongest team I have ever seen since I played my first Test match [against West Indies in 1997].
"People thought we would not even make it to India let alone the final. They said we would lose against Australia or Sri Lanka, that we were going through absolute turmoil. No-one even bothered getting a visa for us.
"But yet again this controversy has united us, given us motivation and the opportunity to gather, get our heads together and rethink. Keep criticising us, keep building up the pressure - it motivates us more and more."
Relations between the nuclear-armed rivals are still tense afterPakistan-based militants targeted Mumbai in 2008.
"It's probably a blessing in disguise that we're here to play this match - so many things will be gained," Shoaib explained. "It is a breakthrough for Pakistan and India for dialogue, which was at deadlock for the last six or seven months. Now there is a chance it can be broken.
"It was a very kind gesture from Manmohan and it's very gracious of our prime minister to accept that offer. It's such a win-win situation for both countries."
The match could be Shoaib's last in international cricket and he added: "This is my last tournament and I want to be remembered as someone who won this semi-final and then the final.
"Winning this match and performing well against India, people will remember you all their lifetime and you will be talked about for many centuries.
"I want to be remembered, I want to do well and I want to give every ounce of what I have left in my body to go out there, provide and deliver."
Shoaib has taken 41 wickets in 28 one-day matches against India at an average of 26.78 and is three wickets short of the 250 mark overall.

Pakistan arrests six more in SLanka team attack

Pakistani police said Tuesday they had arrested another six alleged plotters over the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team that cost the country its World Cup hosting rights.
Six policemen and two civilians were killed and seven Sri Lankan players injured when militants launched a gun and grenade assault on the team as they travelled to a match in the eastern city on March 3, 2009.
Lahore city police chief Aslam Tareen said the latest arrests were made in different swoops in central Punjab province, but gave no precise dates.
“We have arrested six people, they were actively involved in the attack on the Sri Lankan team. They belonged to the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan),” Tareen told a news conference on the eve of the hotly-anticipated cricket World Cup semi-final between arch rivals India and Pakistan in Mohali, India.
The arrests followed the interrogation of two other suspects, already held in connection with the attack, he said.
The detainees were presented at the news conference, their faces covered in masks, but did not speak. Police also displayed four assault rifles, one suicide vest and eight hand grenades allegedly seized from the suspects.
“They told interrogators that they belonged to TTP and the plot was hatched in the tribal Waziristan region,” Tareen said.
Their motive was to take the Sri Lankan team hostage, he said.
Up to 12 gunmen were believed to have taken part in the assault on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan players from hotel to the stadium. They all escaped.

Gilani, Nawaz, Malik call Afridi to boost team’s morale

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Monday separately talked to Pakistan cricket team captain Shahid Afridi over telephone and wished the best of luck to the cricket team in the semi-final of the World Cup to be played tomorrow (Wednesday) in Mohali, India.

“While accepting the invitation of the Indian prime minister to witness the match, it was in my heart to be present on the occasion to express solidarity with the players of the cricket team,” Prime Minister Gilani said in a telephonic talk with Shahid Afridi.

The premier conveyed sentiments and prayers of the whole nation for the success of the team. Prime Minister Gilani’s morale booster telephonic conversation with Afridi came after the statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik about ‘spot-fixing’ that was seen as ‘demoralisising’ and drew severe criticism from all segments of the society and cricket experts.

But Gilani’s call to the cricket team’s skipper was described by the cricket fans as a positive gesture to boost the morale of the national players. Prime Minister Gilani said irrespective of the result of the match, the team should demonstrate the best of sportsmanship and dedication to the contest. Shahid Afridi assured the premier that each member of the Pakistan cricket team would put in his best performance for a favourable result.

India v Pakistan: Cricket relegated to a distraction during frenzied build-up to semi-final

The Indian-Pakistan border is 150 miles to the west of Mohali, where the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan takes place, but it may as well have been transplanted here for all the nationalistic posturing that has accompanied this match.

The cricket has been consigned to a sideshow as politicians hijack the occasion for the higher purpose of trying to get on with their neighbours.
Manmohan Singh, India’s Prime Minster, and his opposite number from Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gilani, will attend the match along with Sonia Gandhi, the head of Congress party which is part of the ruling coalition.
Relations between the two countries have been frosty following the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and this is seen as an opprtunity the begin the thaw. Cricket has been used before to quell growing discord between the countries, something Shahid Afridi, Pakistan’s one-day captain cknowledged at Tuesday’s press conference.
“I think it is a great sign for both countries that the politicians are attending together,” said Afridi. “Sport, especially cricket, always rings these two countries together.”
Seen through foreign eyes, the police and army presence, the no-fly zones over this part of the Punjab and the robot bomb disposal units, will make this look like a freak show rather than sporting event, yet India has never been shy of going over the top when given the chance to flex a bit of military muscle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Miandad defends Afridi's comment

Pakistan cricket legend Javed Miandad feels captain Shahid Afridi's comment about aiming to make Sachin Tendulkar wait for his 100th international century shouldn't be made an issue.

Sachin Tendulkar
"He (Tendulkar) will have to wait until after the World Cup to reach the landmark. We will try and make sure no batsman plays a long innings (in the semi-final at Mohali)," Afridi reportedly said recently.

"Don't take Afridi's comment too seriously. No captain or team will want runs scored off them. Every team has its strategy after all and Pakistan will try their best to restrict batsmen like Tendulkar," said Miandad, who figured in six World Cups (1975, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1996).

He resisted from getting into the merits of each side to name his favourite. "A lot of things are said about strengths on paper.

"On paper, South Africa were better than New Zealand. But what happened in the quarter-final in Dhaka? New Zealand beat the so-called favourites. All that matters is what you do on the day."

Asked whether he would unleash veteran Shoaib Akhtar on India considering that he's had some success against the neighbour, Miandad said: "It depends on his fitness and the pitch at Mohali.

"You chalk out your strategy looking at the strip too. Shoaib's a good fast bowler and well known for his exploits. He can be an option."

PM phones cricket team captain Shahid Afridi,

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani has made a telephonic conversation with Pakistan cricket team captain, Shahid Afridi and encouraged the team ahead of the great battle of the game.
According to the media reports, the Prime Minister during the conversation asked the team to play diligently and show their best game onto the field. He further told the skipper that he is coming to India for backing the team. All the prayers of nation are with the team and the Greenshirts would be succeeded in the in the expected hotly contested match.

Indian media to get response in arena: Afridi

 KARACHI: Pakistan cricket team captain, Shahid Afridi repulsing the criticism of Indian media, said the national team will respond to the Indian media with its performance inside the arena, Geo News reported Monday.

“Rehman Malik (Interior Minister) should not have given a statement regarding matck fixing on the occasion of World Cup,” Shahid Afridi said while speaking in Geo News’ program “Score” via telephone. However, he added that players mostly prefer to speak with one another instead of listening to news or reading newspapers.

He said Pakistani players are ‘quite satisfied’ in India in all respects. There is no security issue here, he added.

“We will respond to the Indian media’s criticism with our performance in the stadium,” the Pakistan skipper asserted.

Shahid Afridi said the players are well aware of the significance of this match and the team is well-prepared to take on India in the semi final on March 30 in Mohali. “The team’s hopes are high to defeat India,” he added.

With reference to Shoaib Akhter’s inclusion in the squad, he said a decision is yet to be made. “We want Shoaib who can pull out a strong 10-over spell and not one who can last for only three-four overs,” he added.

Ind vs Pak: Afridi's brother Mushtaq stopped at Attari

Pak cricket team captain Shahid Afridi's brother Mushtaq has been stopped at the Attari immigration by security officials.
Sources say those coming in from Pakistan, who do not have the original ticket for the World Cup matches, are not being allowed to cross over into India.
It seems Afridi's brother did not have the original ticket for the semifinal clash between India and Pakistan scheduled on Wednesday at Mohali.

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