ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v Pakistan, World Cup 2011, 2nd semi-final, Mohali
Shoaib misses marquee semi-final
March 30, 2011
Shoaib Akhtar may well have played his last match for Pakistan, after he wasn't picked for the semi-final against India in Mohali. Despite the customary speculation surrounding his participation before each game ever since he announced his international retirement (before the group game against Australia), Pakistan chose an unchanged line-up from the quarter-final win against West Indies in Dhaka. That means Wahab Riaz retains his place.
The question of Shoaib's inclusion was the subject of considerable discussion within the team management in the build-up to the game. Essentially it came down to Shoaib's fitness to last an entire innings - and multiple spells - but his big-game experience weighed up against Riaz's freshness and inexperience, but importantly, the variation he provides as a left-arm paceman. On Tuesday evening, they opted for the latter. The team were also keen to stick as much as possible with the same XI throughout the tournament.
The issue was confused by comments made by Afridi in the pre-match press conference, in which he said, "Shoaib is not 100% but he is trying his level best. We will decide this evening." That was widely interpreted to mean that he was carrying an injury or wasn't fit enough to play this game, but it is the line that Pakistan have trotted out throughout the tournament and it relates to his general fitness levels, rather than a specific injury.
Both Afridi and coach Waqar Younis have talked repeatedly of Shoaib not being at optimum fitness levels, though he has still played three group games, picking up three wickets. Their concerns grew after he struggled to bowl his last over against New Zealand, the 47th of the innings, which ultimately went for 28 runs.
Until that over, however, he had bowled well without much luck, knocking over Brendan McCullum in his first over before seeing centurion Ross Taylor missed twice in three balls in his second spell. He hasn't played a game since. Earlier in the tournament, incidentally, when asked about his fitness, Shoaib said that he had played much of his career not entirely fit.
Sources within the team management admitted the decision to exclude Shoaib had upset him considerably. He believes he is fit enough to play and that his experience of big games should have seen him in the line-up. He bowled in the pre-match warm-ups and looked to be running in as he has through the last year.
The occasion of the match, and missing out on it, will also have upset him. Shoaib has always enjoyed the rivalry with India, from his Eden Gardens introduction in 1998-99 even through the World Cup Centurion game and he remains one of the most popular Pakistani cricketers in India.