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Afridi has brought Pakistan team together: Misbah

Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi throws a ball during a training session at Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium in Mohali on March 27, 2011.

MUMBAI: Captain Shahid Afridi has brought aggression and leadership to the Pakistan team at just the right time, senior batsman Misbah-ul-Haq said on Sunday.

The 1992 world champions have been unable to play international matches at home since the 2009 armed attack on the Sri Lanka cricketers in Lahore, and the recent spot-fixing scandal raised doubts about their players’ integrity. The scandal deprived them of the services of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, and there were few prepared to bet on Pakistan winning the World Cup for the second time.

But under Afridi they topped their group and then made short work of West Indies in the quarter-final to set up Wednesday’s semi-final against rivals India in Mohali.

“What we needed was aggression, and Afridi, I feel, has shown enough aggression on the field. Most importantly, he leads by example,” Misbah told reporters.

“He is taking wickets and coming out at the right moment to do what the team needs. He also stands by a player and encourages him to perform better.”

Afridi is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, with 21 scalps from seven matches.

Pakistan have shown plenty of discipline and teamwork despite the presence of a couple of former captains.

“There is difference of opinion at times but we finally go by what the captain says,” said Misbah, who led Pakistan in the last test series against New Zealand.

“At the same time, the captain discusses things with the coach and senior players before taking a major decision. There is a good coordination among us.

“We are a well-knit unit and everyone is chipping in at the right moment and every player is fulfilling his role in the side.”

The World Cup final takes place on April 2 in Mumbai.