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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Afridi on the cusp of joining the great Imran

A month ago, any suggestion that Shahid Afridi could emulate the achievements of Pakistan's most famous sporting hero Imran Khan would have sounded ridiculous.
But within minutes of Afridi leading his men to the World Cup semi-final with a thumping 10-wicket win over West Indies, on Wednesday countless discussions on the internet debated the very same subject.
The team had lost three of their most talented players -- Salman Butt and pace duo Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir -- to corruption bans and two weeks before the tournament did not even know who their captain would be. Now, they are just two matches away from walking off with the top prize.
To reach the final, they will have to either beat India in front of 33,000 roaring fans in Mohali on March 30 or deny Australia a place in the showpiece match for the first time since 1992.
Pulling off either feat would have sounded like a pipedream to most Pakistanis when they were asked to weigh up their team's fortunes in the run-up to the February 19-April 2 event.
But in just seven matches, Afridi has instilled a 'can do' attitude into his men while leading from the front -- raising huge expectations back home that the 31-year-old can soothe the wounds of a troubled nation by winning a second World Cup.
Such is the celebratory mood in the Pakistan, that residents were even spared the daily power cuts that authorities impose to conserve energy.
"The hopes in the country is pretty high and I got to know there was no load-shedding (power failure) today and that's make me more happier as the entire country watched the game and they prayed for us," coach Waqar Younis said after the win over West Indies.
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