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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pakistan rise from the ashes to set World Cup pace

If anyone had told Shahid Afridi a month ago that his troops would snap Australia's 12-year unbeaten World Cupstreak, the Pakistan skipper would have thought April Fools' Day had come early.
Unable to play international matches at home, tainted by a spot-fixing scandal that robbed them of the services of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, add in the confusion over team and captain selections -- Pakistan cricket was in disarray.
But just as Imran Khan had unified a World Cup-winning Pakistan team in 1992, when they were lucky to scrape into the semi-finals after emerging victorious in only one of their first five matches, Afridi is proving to be an inspirational leader.
Under his guidance, the class of 2011 have cocooned themselves from all the outside distractions and against the odds not only snapped Australia's 34-match unbeaten streak but also beat co-hosts Sri Lanka to finish as Group A winners.
The win not only provided Afridi's men with a huge morale boost but also set them up nicely for the quarter-finals as they will next face the fourth-placed team from Group B -- which will be decided following India's clash with West Indies on Sunday.
Whether they face England or West Indies, Afridi and coach Waqar Younis will pull together their combined years of experience to draw up plans to topple the opposition, just as they did against Australia.
"We made some good plans against these guys and the boys all stuck to these plans," Afridi said when asked how his men ended Australia's remarkable World Cup run.
"We didn't try to take wickets early on, we tried to bowl maiden, good overs ... and all the bowlers did a great job. The credit goes to the bowlers."
Pakistan achieved the win even though they are far from being the finished product.
Their openers are misfiring, Afridi has yet to get going as a batsman and Kamran Akmal has sealed his place in the 'Hall of Howlers' after some comical dropped catches.
Over the past month, Pakistan's fumbling fielders also provided many moments of light relief to a worldwide audience of billions.
However, on Saturday, Afridi's men showed what they are capable of when they pulled off stunning catches and dived after the ball to save numerous boundaries.
If they can maintain that level of fitness and excellence for the next two weeks, they may well be lifting the trophy come April 2.
While one problem was solved, others still persist.
Afridi knows he has to stop attempting "irresponsible shots as captain" -- which has so far earned him scores of 7, 16, 20, 17, 3 and 2 -- at the tournament.

'Idiotic' Shahid Afridi not fit to lead - Ian Chappell

FORMER Test captain Ian Chappell says the enigmatic Shahid Afridi is "a bit crazy" and should not be in charge of Pakistan's World Cup side, describing his batting brain-snap against Australia as "idiotic".
he Pakistanis limped home by four wickets against Australia on Sunday night but not before a moment of madness from Afridi, who came to the crease with his side teetering at 5-139 chasing 177.
With his side desperately craving a skipper's knock, Afridi made just two, recklessly swatting the fourth ball he faced from Jason Krejza to Brett Lee at long-on.
Man-of-the-match Umar Akmal (44no) showed a far cooler head, and Chappell said Afridi's display against Australia underlines why he should not be at the helm of the Pakistan one-day team.
"When you have a captain who is a bit crazy, crazy things happen," Chappell told Cricinfo.
"To me, he was never the right guy to be in charge and that's only part of the reason, but it's one of the reasons why with Pakistan you never know what's going to turn up.

"They are such a frenetic side, which they always will be while Afridi is captain.""I just don't think Afridi is the sort of guy you should put in charge of a cricket team because he is so frenetic, he does idiotic things like he did with holing out (against Australia).
For all his detractors, Afridi has been magnificent with the ball at this World Cup. He is the tournament's leading wicket-taker after the group phase, having claimed 17 in six matches at 11.47 with two five-wicket hauls.
A sheepish Afridi admitted his attempt to thump Krejza out of the R. Premadasa Stadium was rash in the extreme.
"Don’t ask," he said later, holding up his hands.
"That was an irresponsible shot as a captain at a stage like that.”
Chappell, however, also blasted Afridi for habitually raising his arms in triumph mid-pitch after taking a wicket.
"Everytime he gets a wicket, standing in the middle of the pitch with your arms raised ... that must be really irking to his teammates," he said.
"It's a team game, everybody is contributing, you don't want to see the captain seemingly taking the glory everytime he gets a wicket."
Despite Afridi putting his side in a precarious position against Australia, the skipper received the backing of Pakistan coach Waqar Younis.
"If that shot would’ve gone over the ropes you would’ve said what a shot," Waqar said.
"That’s the way he plays. He is a striker of the ball, he hits it big, when it comes out right, it's brilliant, but when it comes out wrong, it’s not right.
"That’s the way he plays. One can say maybe the situation was not exactly to hit that shot, but he backed himself and it didn’t come right."

Waqar defends reckless Afridi

Pakistan coach refuses to slam his skipper’s repeated poor shot selection in crunch moments.
By Soumitra Bose in ColomboWaqar Younis was at his diplomatic best at Saturday night’s media conference after Pakistan consigned Australia to their first defeat in 35 World Cup matches by four wickets. Waqar was facing the media after skipper Shahid Afridi ducked the post-match chat, probably aware that he would surely be asked questions about his “doom-doom” batting.

Waqar refused to flay his profligate skipper, who has repeatedly abused his batting position to play poor shots and get out at critical times. The four-wicket Pakistan win on Saturday may look convincing on paper but had Australia had another 30-40 runs in their kitty – the defending world champions made 176 – it could have been another story.  

With Pakistan 139 for five in the 32nd over, Afridi walked in at No. 7 to partner a confident Umar Akmal. The Aussie quickies were on fire and the situation demanded a calm and calculated approach as Pakistan needed all of 38 runs to win. But then composure has never been Afridi’s trademark. The 31-year-old seldom looks to carry the wisdom of batting in 299 ODI innings. His fire and brimstone demeanor can certainly be counterproductive as it almost did on Saturday night.

In the fourth ball that Afridi faced, he lofted off-spinner Jason Krejza only to find Brett Lee at long-on. He scored just 2 runs, but Afridi’s exit certainly pressed the panic buttons in the Pakistan dressing room. Waqar, however, was not prepared to chastise his skipper.

“That’s the way he bats. If the ball had crossed the ropes, you would have said it was a brilliant stroke. Afridi is a striker of the ball and loves his strokes, but one can say the situation wasn’t right today. Probably he backed himself and didn’t get it right,” explained Waqar, almost certainly masquerading his genuine thoughts, with panache.

Afridi’s exit left the door ajar for Abdul Razzaq to leave his stamp as a quality all-rounder in a big game. Razzaq did this with great confidence and even on a wicket that had dual bounce, he timed the ball well. He closed the game with two back-to-back boundaries off Krejza, the first slapped through mid-wicket and the winning stroke smacked past extra-cover. Razzaq’s unbeaten 20 off 24 balls were decisive and if Pakistan sailed through, it was because of him.

Razzaq was certainly a contender for the Man of the Match award that finally went to Umar Akmal for his fluent and unbeaten 44 under pressure. On Saturday afternoon, Razzaq used the old ball well. He came in to bowl at No. 5 and broke at least one burgeoning partnership with some intelligent use of line and length. He bowled Michael Clarke for 34 and then caught the edge of Mitchell Johnson’s dangerous bat with a ball that cut off the seam.

This time, Waqar’s thoughts looked genuine. “His experience showed, especially when he bowled. Razzaq took two wickets and I thing those were important moments where the game changed in our favour,” the former speed-king and skipper said.

A win has a great impact on Pakistani cricket that has passed through a lot of lows in recent times. More importantly, a victory against Australia is always unique, especially when it comes almost after 12 years. The team savoured Saturday’s win into the wee hours of Sunday at the Hilton. Watching the India versus West Indies in Chennai is next on the team’s cards.

President, PM congratulate Pakistan cricket team on historic victory

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani have congratulated Pakistan cricket team on winning the Saturday’s pool match against Australia in Colombo and attaining the top position in its group.
The President and the Prime Minister in their separate messages to the Manager and Captain of Pakistan Cricket Team, praised the outstanding performance and superb sportsman spirit demonstrated by every member of Pakistani squad in all disciplines of the game.
They hoped that the national team would clinch the World Cup by exhibiting super performance through hardwork and team effort.
The President and the Prime Minister said that the prayers and good wishes of the whole nation are with the Pakistan Cricket Team.

No ‘match’ for Pakistani morale

Cricket fans in the Walled City, Gulshan-i- Ravi and Johar Town were left devastated by the Cable Operators Association (CAP) strike as many missed watching the final pool match between Pakistan and Australia on Saturday.
Large numbers of cricket enthusiasts thronged at coffee shops and sat in groups listening to a radio commentary on the match after cable channels refused to air the match. Only a handful of cafes and restaurants had made arrangements to show the match and hundreds of people gathered at the shops cheering on the Pakistani cricket team in, what many fans said was one of the most exciting matches in the ongoing World Cup.
The Cable Operators Association (CAP) strike began at noon on Saturday and was set to last for 24hours. The strike is meant to protest the raids carried out by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
Most restaurants could not get coverage of the match, due to disabled cable connections but several coffee shops had arranged for alternative channels to screen the match. Hotel One, Gloria Jeans, Jammin’ Java café, Dunkin Donuts, Coffee, Tea and Company and Espresso Café all managed to screen coverage of the match and attracted large crowds.
Hotel One near Hussain Chowk had also sported an outdoor screen telecasting the match; dozens of cricket fans gathered around the screen to watch the live telecast.  Cricket fan, Fawad said “It is a lot more fun to watch a match when you have so many other fans around you. We were all backing the team and our team didn’t disappoint us.”
Hotel One manager Hassan Ahmad said “we have been lucky to receive the entirecoverage. People have been gathering here since 2pm and everything else seems to have come to a standstill.” Ahmed said “The strike has been a disaster in residential areas but I’m glad that the CAP seem to have spared some commercial zones.”
Residential areas received most of the coverage of the South Africa vs Bangladesh pool match.
Young cricket fans, who planned to enjoy the match on the weekend were sorely disappointed. “In some ways it ended up being a blessing in disguise. We ended up watching the match with dozens of people in a café so it was a lot more fun,” said ten-year-old Musa. “My family and I were trying to get coverage all day until we decided to drive around looking for a place that was broadcasting the channel,” he said. Nine-year-old Hanan Ahmed said “I’ve been trying to get the coverage all day and my friends were texting me the details of what was going on from a café.”
A handful of universities too managed to access high-speed internet feeds to connect to a television and broadcast the match.
Students staying in hostels watched the final match through a live stream, while the cafeteria was also full of cheering crowds. Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) student Mozzam said “we had distorted screen resolution at the cafeteria so we decided to watch the match in my room. We had feared being disappointed by the team not the cable channels. The team delivered and they didn’t.”
Cricket fans said that the fact that Pakistan won comfortably was the only thing that allowed them to overlook the ‘deplorable’ attitude of the CAP.
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