27/3/2011 at 9:46 ÖÖ
MOHALI: Pakistan batsman Misbah-ul-Haq believes fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has a key role to play in the World Cup semifinal against India -- even if the paceman doesn't take the field.
The 35-year-old Akhtar has said he will retire after the World Cup and has only featured in three matches at the tournament to date.
But he remains capable of working up fearsome speed and may have one last shot at India when Pakistan face their arch-rivals on Wednesday.
"Shoaib Akhtar is a class bowler," said Misbah on Sunday.
"He has performed for Pakistan on a number of occasions including the 1999 World Cup (when the team lost to Australia in the final)."
And Misbah said that, at the very least, he would help Pakistan's batsmen get ready for the challenge of facing India's seamers.
"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."
When it comes to India-Pakistan matches, Misbah is currently associated with the 2007 World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg.
The now 36-year-old Misbah rescued Pakistan from the depths of 77/6 and his 43 almost guided Pakistan to victory in the first World Twenty20 final.
With three balls left, and six runs needed to win, he was last man out when he tried to lap Joginder Sharma over short fine leg and was caught by Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.
Asked if he wanted to put that right, Misbah said: "Every game is a new game and it's not because of that, that this is a special game.
"This is a World Cup semifinal, I really want to play well.
Misbah, one of two former captains in the side along with Younis Khan, praised skipper Shahid Afridi for the way he'd led the side to the semifinals.
Leg-spinner Afridi is the tournament's leading bowler with 21 wickets and Misbah said: "I think the important thing is his aggression and the other thing is that he has led the team by example.
"He is performing really well, just taking wickets at the right time, so that really helps the team when the captain is performing like that. Everybody is standing behind him at the World Cup."
There were concerns that having two ex-captains in a Pakistan team traditionally renowned for its volatility could prove divisive but Misbah insisted: "I think there are always differences in opinion but we always talk to the captain about what he thinks. He's really good at that.
"He listens to the players, especially the senior players and the coaches, we just decide everything with a good co-ordination, and that's why everything is going well and the team is performing well."
Misbah added it was also good to have veteran manager Intikhab Alam, the former Pakistan captain, on board given his experience in helping the team win the 1992 World Cup in Australia and the 2009 World Twenty20 in England.
"That's a positive thing we have, the last two World Cups, 50 overs and 20 overs, we've won when he was with the team so he has a good experience of how to perform in pressure situations."
No Pakistan batsman has yet made a hundred this tournament with Misbah's unbeaten 83 in the 11-run win over Sri Lanka, who face New Zealand in the other semifinal, their highest individual score.
"Our batsmen not making big scores is not a concern because we are winning. We will be happy if we win the World Cup without a single individual hundred," Misbah insisted.