'Afridi has led the team by example'
Pakistan's Test captain Misbah-ul Haq feels that Shahid Afridi's greatest quality has been to bring unity in the team, which has always been in the news for all wrong reasons.
"He (Afridi) listens to senior players, he takes senior players and the coaches into confidence. We decide everything with a good co-ordination, and that's why everything is going well. It's a big thing actually.
"There is always differences of opinion, but we always go with the captain. Everyone is standing behind him," Misbah told mediapersons, ahead of his side's much-anticipated semi-final clash against arch-rivals India, on Wednesday.
"He has led the team by example and his aggression has been exemplary. He has bowled superbly giving us breakthroughs at the right time. It helps the team when captain is performing," Misbah added.
Image: Shahid Afridi
Photographs: Getty Images
Wealth of experience
Misbah said the team is gelling well with the senior players, including another former captain Younis Khan, helping out the juniors.
"The team members are gelling well. The big plus is that the team is playing as a unit. Everyone is chipping, putting the right input at the right time. Everyone is fulfilling the roles the team demands of them," said Misbah after his team's three-hour practice session at Punjab Cricket Association grounds.
He also said that presence of manager and former skipper Intikhab Alam was also helping the team as he brings in wealth of experience.
Misbah said that any player-specific plan against India may backfire as "all of them are world-class."
"You cannot just single out any one individual player. All the eleven are important and we need to have strategy for all of them. We cannot take anyone lightly, all are world class players," Haq said when asked what strategy his team will adopt to tackle players like Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan.
Image: Misbah-ul Haq and Younis Khan
Shoaib is a world class bowler
Asked if Shoaib Akhtar will play against India, Misbah said the management is yet to give any thought on the team composition but described the retiring fast bowler as somebody who gives "psychological advantage" against the opponents.
"He is a world class bowler who has come up with numerous match-winning performances on a number of occasions including the 1999 World Cup.
"Batsmen get to prepare well against pace bowling when they face him at the nets. If he does play in the coming matches, I feel it will give us a psychological advantage," Misbah said.
Image: Shoaib Akhtar
'Every game is important in the World Cup'
He said any India-Pakistan encounter becomes such a big match as the people of both the countries are involved in it.
"Every game is important in the World Cup. This game is really important, there is big fan following in both the countries and people are so involved. I think it is important for us to play well against India and the same goes for them," said the 36-year-old right hander.
Asked if there would be extra pressure on the team to perform even better in the presence of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Misbah said, "I think that is a good thing (Gilani coming here), there is no pressure. He's helping to support us.
"And I think it's a good gesture from the Indian Prime Minister that he invites him (Gilani) to come here and watch the game," he added.
Image: Shahid Afridi celebrates after picking up a wicket
Winning is a habit
No Pakistani batsman figures among the top 20 highest run-getters in the tournament but Misbah is not bothered by that.
"It does not matter. Most important is winning. It does not matter even if not one century is scored, but as long as we win the World Cup that's fine. If century is scored, but we are out of the tournament, then that is of no use.
"Nonetheless it helps when your batsman are scoring big 100s and are in good form. But as long as our batsmen are even making 50s, 20s, 30s and contributing to the team's win, that's good enough for the team," said Misbah, whose highest score in ODIs is 93.
Image: Saeed Ajmal celebrates after picking up a wicket
No easy games
On Pakistan winning their quarter-final match easily while India had a close game against Australia, Misbah said that no game was easy even though it may look like one.
"All eight teams in the quarter-finals were top teams of the world and one could not say that playing England is easy or playing against Sri Lanka is tough as all were equally good teams," he said.
On the predictions before the World Cup that the tournament would belong to batsmen, Misbah he, "For teams, especially those outside the sub-continent, batting on slow, low bounce and less pacy wickets was an art, where one needs to build one's innings."
Image: Umar Gul celebrates after picking up a wicket