Mohali, March 29 (IANS) Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, in a calculated move, says his side was not expected to enter the cricket World Cup semifinals and thus are under no pressure like India, who have all through been touted as favourites.Addressing a news conference at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium Tuesday on the eve of match, Afridi said his team is considered the underdogs and that tag suits them perfectly in the high-profile game.
“There is no pressure on us and that’s why we are enjoying our cricket. We weren’t the favourites coming into the tournament. But we have played above expectations. India were always the favourites and certainly the pressure will be on them,” said Afridi.
Afridi, who is just five short of Australian Glenn McGrath’s record 26 wickets in a single edition of the World Cup, said he has told his teammates that they should not allow the occasion to get to them and panic.
“If you know how to handle pressure then you enjoy doing the job. I have told my boys not to panic under any situation,” he said.
The captain also said he has a balanced team and had words of praise for youngsters like Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq.
“My team is very well-balanced. The guys are doing a great job, especially considering the tough time we have had in the last six-eight months,” he said.
Asked whether fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is fit to play, Afridi said: “Shoaib is not 100 percent fit, but he is trying his best. We will take a decision on his inclusion this evening.”
Afridi said his boys are desperate to lift the World Cup and win back the people’s confidence that was shattered after three key Pakistani players — Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamer — were banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on charges of spot-fixing last year.
Pakistan cricket’s miseries started in 2009 after they were ostracised by the international cricket community in the wake of the Lahore terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, soon after which they were dropped as the World Cup co-hosts.
“The World Cup matters a lot to us. By winning it, we can bring back international cricket to Pakistan,” said Afridi.