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New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st semi-final, Cape Town
Rameez Raja: Pakistan are peaking at the right time
September 22, 2007
Rameez Raja analyses Pakistan's comprehensive victory over New Zealand in the first semi-final
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Rameez Raja: "Umar Gul has developed a very good yorker and he's a confident bowler and that is because he is picking up wickets" © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Welcome to Cricinfo Talk. I am joined by former captain of Pakistan, Rameez Raja to look back on the first semi-final between Pakistan and New Zealand where Pakistan scored a comprehensive victory over New Zealand to march into the ICC World Twenty20 final.

Rameez, at the start of the tournament nobody would have expected Pakistan to reach the final - they have really surprised one and all with their consistent performance ...

Rameez Raja: From the start I think their coach Geoff Lawson was quite categorical in stating that this unpredictability factor might just work in favour of Pakistan and it has. They have peaked at the right time. Shoaib Malik, their captain, has been pretty good in getting the boys to work [on their fitness] in the gym and it shows on the field, in their body language and in their running between the wickets, which has been very good.

I thought they made a very good selection today by including Fawad Alam because it gave them that extra option in the spin [department] and it worked well - he took two wickets. So things are looking up for them.

AR: One of Pakistan's problems has been their tendency to self-destruct. But they've been very calm and not panicked in this tournament. What would you attribute this change to?

RR: I feel that Malik has been a good calming influence on the youngsters. He's the first one who raises his hand when there is a job to be done; he's the first one in the gym and he was the first one out there today as a runner when Nazir was injured. He's a selfless leader and that is what the youngsters enjoy and look up to. He gels well with the team. There's a self-belief in the team now and I think Malik will attribute that to the fact that they have returned to the basics - they are a stronger team physically and it has worked for them mentally.

AR: A word on Umar Gul's performance. He has been bowling well in this tournament particularly in the last few games ...

RR: Yes, Umar Gul has been a real find for them because firstly, he is looking fit and secondly, he wants to bowl and is looking in good rhythm. You would normally associate a lot of wides and no-balls with Gul when he isn't bowling well. But we now see a different Gul because his job description has been explained to him - bowl in the middle overs of the innings and not do a great deal with his length. He has developed a very good yorker and he's a confident bowler and that is because he is picking up wickets. You ask any bowler - they will tell you that wickets always give them confidence. Overall things are shaping up well for him because he has been backed up by some good fielding also.

AR: One of the problems for Pakistan has been the performance of their openers. How crucial was that opening stand today between Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez?

RR: It was a very crucial stand because in a crunch game you don't want your middle order [to get exposed early] and then get wrapped up under pressure. I thought Nazir played a very good hand today - he's a bit like Afridi, a bit of a lottery. But on his day, when he's hitting the ball hard he can be a real handful. If the openers do their job then I am sure that the middle order will come good.

AR: Who do you think Pakistan would fancy as their opponents in the final?

RR:(laughs) I think it will be a classic India-Pakistan final if India qualify. But the news from the Pakistani dressing room is that they would want Australia to come through because they have already beaten them once [in this tournament]. But India-Pakistan could be a real battle of nerves. Both teams deserve to be in the final. I think the flow is with India; they had their backs to the wall when they had to win those two matches and they played brilliantly. Pakistan are peaking at the right time and it could turn out to be a battle of giants.

AR: Thank you Rameez for your views.

Ramiz Raja is a former Pakistan batsman, former CEO of the Pakistan board, and currently a commentator and presenter

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