|Event:||ICC World Cup 2010/11|
DateLine: 29th March 2011
Former Pakistan Captain, Pakistan Cricket Board’s one time Director-Game Development and now Media Pundit Aamer Sohail speaks exclusively with PakPassion.net about the upcoming World Cup semi final encounter between India and Pakistan.
In his characteristic upfront and candid style, Sohail provides his insight into whether Shoaib Akhtar should feature in the semi final, his opinion of Shahid Afridi's captaincy so far in the World Cup and what Afridi's tactics should be in the semi final.
In addition, Sohail talks about Pakistan's spin options, the relative strengths and weaknesses of both teams and what his advice would be for the Pakistan team, based on his experience of the 1996 World Cup quarter final in Bangalore.
Pakistan's Performance in the World Cup So Far
Not many people gave Pakistan a chance to get very far in the World Cup or to reach the semi final stage, but I've been saying all along Pakistan can do it. Eventually, Pakistan have got their combination almost right. It's not exactly right but it's kind of right, not 100%, but it's worked for them. The pitches have suited Pakistan's bowling throughout this tournament and the Pakistani bowlers have performed well overall.
If they play good cricket like they have been playing in this tournament, then Pakistan could surprise the Indians.
I'd like to see Shoaib Akhtar play in the semi final. He can be a match-winner. My theory is that if your batting is weak, you don't go and try to strengthen it, instead you do the opposite and make your bowling even stronger so that you can get the opposition out more cheaply and make it easier for your own batsmen. We all know Shoaib is not 100% fit, he's been taken to the World Cup, it was a gamble, but now is the time to use Shoaib and utilise him to get rid of the Indian top order with the new ball. By getting rid of the Indian top order, Pakistan have a great chance of winning the semi final.
Use the reverse psychology with Shoaib Akhtar. Say to him your career has been marred by controversies, here is an opportunity for you to become the hero of the nation by getting your team a couple of quick wickets with the new ball. Shoaib needs to be pumped up, he needs to be fired up. Give him an opening burst of 5 overs and ensure he has bowled his quota of 10 overs by the 30th over.
Team Strengths and Weaknesses
India have a strong batting line up and Pakistan have a strong bowling line-up. India's bowling is their weakness and Pakistan's batting is not so strong. Overall if you analyse the teams, the strengths and weaknesses of both teams even themselves out.
For a batsman, one delivery can dismantle you. The Pakistani bowlers have been bowling very well and Umar Gul has been in superb form and on his day he can get rid of any batsman cheaply. So why can't the Pakistani bowlers dismantle the Indian top order, I think they can.
Shahid Afridi and his Captaincy
One thing Shahid Afridi has to do in a pressure game as a captain is to smell blood. Once you "smell the blood of the opposition", you have to go for the kill. What we have seen Shahid Afridi doing in the World Cup at times is that when he needed to go for the kill, he hung back a little bit and was defensive. He cannot afford to do this against India.
If you look at Daniel Vettori in the quarter final against South Africa, he went for the kill. He went for the jugular, he attacked and he never let the South African batsmen settle. Vettori crowded the batsmen with close fielders and that strategy worked.
Afridi has to be more attacking, he has to remain cool and Pakistan have to remember they have nothing to lose as nobody gave Pakistan a chance.
Lesson Learnt from Bangalore 96 and Advice for the Current Squad
If I was given an opportunity to chat to the team now, I would say to them don't get injured just before the game and don't let "outside elements" come into play.
Pakistan's Spin Options
Ajmal has to play against India. Mohali will be a flat track, they won't risk a green top track or a turning track, as both give Pakistan a big chance to beat India. The safer route is to prepare a slow track with a little bit of turn.
The focus though will be on Shahid Afridi. The Indians will play Afridi with a little bit of caution. Afridi should take advantage of that and attack the opposition. The Indians will look for singles against Afridi, like most batsmen do against Muralitharan and to see out his bowling and to not let him pick up any wickets. Afridi needs to try and deny the Indian batsmen easy singles and if they do attack him, then that gives Afridi an opportunity to pick up wickets, which will be a huge bonus for Pakistan.
If Afridi goes for 10 or so runs extra, that is not a problem as long as he can pick up a wicket or two. If the opposition treats Afridi with caution, then Ajmal should be Pakistan's attacking spin option.
India are the clear favourites - no doubt about it. They are playing at home, battle hardened and have featured in some close games in the ongoing World Cup. Pakistan on the other hand have been playing very well and have come into the semi final stage quietly.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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