Misbahul Haq and coach Waqar Younis play football during a team training session.
PALLEKELE: Misbahul Haq on Monday urged his team-mates to take the pressure off high-flying skipper Shahid Afridi who has single-handedly won matches for Pakistan in this World Cup.
Afridi took 5-16, the best bowling figures by any Pakistani in all World Cups, against Kenya and followed that with 4-34 against Sri Lanka and 5-23 against Canada, giving him a tournament-high of 14 wickets.
His efforts have given Pakistan a perfect six points from three matches and top spot in Group A followed by co-hosts Sri Lanka (five from four) and defending champions Australia (five from three).
Pakistan face New Zealand on Tuesday with Misbah telling teammates to take the pressure off Afridi.
“It’s really very good for a team that its captain is doing well, but other players are also required to play well, take responsibility and ease pressure off the captain,” said Misbah.
Misbah said Afridi has led from the front in the tournament.
“I think in all conditions, especially here, Afridi is a difficult bowler to handle, he has got variation and doesn’t give the batsmen time. With that kind of aggression he has led from the front,” said Misbah, who is anchoring the batting.
The 36-year-old has been in good form since taking over as Test captain in October last year, and hit 203 in the recent one-day series win in New Zealand followed by two half-centuries in this World Cup.
That makes him one of the prime targets for New Zealand bowlers, but Misbah remains unconcerned.
“They can’t target just me, because before me there are three or four batsmen who can get hundreds. They can’t wait for me only,” said Misbah.
“We are playing with six batsmen so every batsman is important. I think we will be looking for the top order to get some runs because they did well in New Zealand so we’re hoping they are going to do it again,” said Misbah.
Pakistan’s main batting worry has been the poor form of the openers, with Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shahzad failing to get decent starts in the three matches.
“We have confidence in our openers. One or two games you see failures of the top order but it doesn’t matter, it happens in cricket. That they are not making runs doesn’t put pressure on us,” said Misbah.
“Senior players have to handle the presusure and that’s the advantage of the seniors, so there is no pressure,” said Misbah, who was one of the contenders for World Cup captaincy before the tournament got underway.
“I am happy in my position and give my input whenever it is needed. Afridi has gelled this team very well.”