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May 10, 2010

Twenty20 World Cup 2010

Brave or bonkers? Afridi revives Pakistan

Kamran Abbasi

"Afridi has generally gone with his heart - a more natural method for his captaincy" © AFP

Pakistan might not win this World Cup but this day in May will become legend in the history of Pakistan cricket. Improbable odds of qualification for the semi-finals were lengthened when Shahid Afridi announced his team. Khalid Latif in, Mohammad Sami out. A batsman for a bowler, leaving one genuine pace bowler in the starting XI. Brave or bonkers? It was a gamble that convulsed Pakistan fans. It turned out to be a stroke of genius.

When Latif played a lame stroke to end his innings, Pakistan's innings was a mess, South Africa were rampant. Contests between Pakistan and South Africa are always visually fascinating. In the flesh, the South Africans are gigantic, each man several times thicker in stature than his Pakistani opponent. Yet for the second World Cup running, the wiry frames of Pakistan's players were controlled by cooler nerves.

The revival by the Akmal brothers and Pakistan's captain was thrilling enough. But the bowling performance, supported by another efficient fielding display, was exceptional. Saeed Ajmal and Afridi rejoined their compelling Twenty20 partnership, with Ajmal possibly producing the spell of the tournament. In the field, Afridi was passionate, encouraging, and foul-mouthed. An ideal combination for a Pakistan captain.

Nonetheless, it would be daft to pretend that Pakistan deserve to be semi-finalists. Afridi's team have been generally awful, struggling to find the right balance and any kind of strategy. But after such a desperate tour of Australia and the destructive infighting of recent months, players and fans were due some better fortune.

Encouragingly, Pakistan's bowling has returned to form in the last two games. The fielding has become helpful. Afridi has generally gone with his heart, his impulses; a more natural method for his captaincy. He has found form, a vital pillar of credibility for any leader. Passage to the semi-final should help settle him further. Pakistan have got off death row and go into the final rounds exhilarated.

But they could not have done it without England, every Pakistani's second favourite team. When Pakistan required England to win, not once but twice, England delivered. Now Pakistan's route to the semi final echoes the 1992 World Cup. Indeed, England's helping hand could come back to haunt them as it did then.

Pakistan will probably have to overcome a formidable Australian team. Afridi's men will be clear underdogs but that means they have nothing to lose. Moreover, Pakistan's batsmen will prefer to tackle Australia's lightning attack on the Lahori wicket of St Lucia. Pakistan now have momentum and anything is possible in Twenty20.

A semi-final berth was as much as Pakistan fans realistically hoped for. The title defence continues. Whatever the turmoil and conspiracies in the background, fans will always support their team, especially if they battle as they have done in the last two matches. But it is the sudden twists in fortune that make Pakistan compelling viewing. Doubly so when they come on the back of an utterly surprising team selection.

Brave and bonkers is the Afridi method. The rollercoaster just got steeper and deeper.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Adnan Alavi on (May 14, 2010, 10:32 GMT)

It was Australia (not England) who defeated WI in the crucial tie in 1992, famous Brain Lara run out made sure that Pakistan faces NZ in the semis.

Posted by keep_right on (May 14, 2010, 7:33 GMT)

The only 1st class team that Pakistan defeated is South Africa which India also defeated. Otherwise, their performance has been as dismal as expected. I think, Pakistan will take a flight back home tonight!

Posted by zaheer Kazmi on (May 14, 2010, 4:32 GMT)

If Pak want to go with the winning Combination then, Pak 11 in the semi Final should be: Kamran Akmal Salman Butt Khalid Latif Abdul Razzaq Omer Akmal Shahid Afridi Misbah Ul Haq Muhammad Hafiz Abdul Rehman Muhammad Amir Saeed Ajmal

Posted by zahoor Ahmed Butt on (May 14, 2010, 4:27 GMT)

ASL! Inshallah we will beat Australia. Because this format suits most to Pak Team, we learn to play in these situations in streets, all life. We hve more than 6 players which r match winners and just need to click them. St Lucia suit our spinners most and if we win toss its an added advantage. Afridi shall take more responsibility and bring himself or Abdul Razzaq at one down just like Imran Khan did in 1992, its better to sent Abdul Razzaq coz he can handle faster bowlers quite easily. On top of everything believe in yourself that you can do it. Pray 2 rakatain and ask Allah for help. I believe Pakistan and PCB has loads of problems, but I also believe based on history that Pakistanis have made history in many fields, and Pak team always won in the curcial stages. I believe very much that we can do it once again. Our team just need to play sensibly and send right player at right time. Pakistan, zindaa baad.

Posted by Taz on (May 13, 2010, 21:38 GMT)

Pakistan will beat the aussies, no doubt about it. Then we will overpower england in the final and retain the cup. Inshallah.

And then all those so-called experts who wrote pakistan off will be forced to eat their words - just like last year.

Posted by Saiful Ansari,Leesburg , USA on (May 13, 2010, 21:05 GMT)

Aussies look unbeatable in this tournament & the experts predict, will roll over Pak. Amer, Sami & Asif can't compare to Nannes, Tait & Johnson. Pak Batting is fragile & inconsistent, fielding is listed on a day to day basis & the team may be banking on spin from Ajmal, Rehman & Afridi. Good spin bowling can change the game in favor of Pak on any given day, if the batsmen post a decent total. Pakistan's weakness against Aussies all summer has been in their batting department. Openers need to fire up early and atleast two in the middle order need to score for the lower order to come up firing on all cylinders. Hammad is a good choice to replace Hafeez even if he fails. Misbah should sit & either Fawad or Khalid & come in. Only an all out attacking game plan executed to perfection will help Pak to get past the Aussies who are favorites, having tormented us all summer. We got to believe that we can best the Aussies and beat them. Go Pakistan! you can do it. If you falter go out blazing.

Posted by Dr.Mubashir Hanif on (May 13, 2010, 19:04 GMT)

Assalamoalikm! Inshallah we will beat Aussies, why? Because this format suits us the most, we learn to play in these situations in streets, all life. We just need one batsman to click out of at least 5 match winners. St Lucia and our spinners will strangle OOOOZ and if we win toss its an added advantage. Afridi shall take more responsibility and bring himself or Abdul Razzaq at one down just like Imran Khan did in 1992. On top of everything believe in yourself that you can do it. Pray 2 rakatain and ask Allah for help. CĀ“mon cornered tigers, its time for the kill. I believe Pakistan and PCB has loads of problems, but I also believe based on history that Pakistanis have made history in many fields. I believe very much that we can do it once again. Could you please, Mr Waqar Younis tap the shoulders of the team and just tell them, yes you can do it, Inshallah. Pakistanis have something that oooooz dont. Lets hope we dont get biased commentators on air. Pakistan, zindaa baad.peace

Posted by Irfan on (May 13, 2010, 18:57 GMT)

The way it stands right now. Pakistan can't go in with one fast bowler only. True, that the surface will be slower but Sami has enough pace to stifle batsmen with his quickness. If their fast bowling trio can work so can Pak's pace bowlers. They just have to be smart. Now who is going to make way for Sami I think it should be Misbah as his days as batman only in a T20 should be numbered. With Hafeez we will be losing a spinner and a batsman which is not a good idea. I think four spinners and two fast bowlers should be able to provide Pak a good net to capture their wickets.

Posted by Syed- Dublin Ireland on (May 13, 2010, 16:51 GMT)

Well in fairness Australia deserve to win the wc, as they throughly outclassed the teams the have faced till now, being a pakistani i'd love to c them winning but to be honest how many times do they have to rely on our prayers rather than their own performances. FROM (A TRUE CRICKET LOVER)

Posted by Yasir on (May 13, 2010, 11:37 GMT)

Batting Line up: Butt Kamran Fawad or Misbah Umar Razzak Afridi Azam or Hafeez Amir Ajmal Asif

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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