Pakistan opener Mohammad Hafeez insists no praise is too high for India great Sachin Tendulkar, but it won’t stop his side from targeting the legendary batsman in the World Cup semi-final.
Adding to Wednesday’s hugely-anticipated clash is the knowledge Tendulkar needs just one more century to become the first batsman to score a hundred international hundreds.
“You can say anything you want about Sachin Tendulkar, but whatever you say in praise of him will be inadequate. He is a great player,” said Hafeez.“Obviously, on that day, whoever the opponent might be, you have some strategies for him.
“Whatever the captain will tell us in terms of strategy, we will follow that,” added off-spinner Hafeez, who could find himself bowling first up at Tendulkar if he is given the new ball.
“I think Sachin is at the top of his skills and I think we all should admire how he has maintained his standards throughout a long career.”
However, bullish Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi — the tournament’s top wicket-taker — was adamant Tendulkar would be kept waiting for his latest landmark achievement.
“He will have to wait until after the World Cup. We will make sure no batsman plays a long innings,” leg-spinner Afridi told Pakistan’s Geo TV.
“India will have more pressure than us. With the crowd cheering every ball, they can get overwhelmed.”
Pakistan have reached the semi-finals despite a turbulent few months that saw new-ball bowlers Mohammad Asif and teenager Mohammad Aamer banned for their roles in last year’s spot-fixing scandal in England.
“The key is that for the last six to seven months, as a unit, we have been gelling very well,” Hafeez explained.
“We support each other very well and when you play together, you understand each others’ games very well.
“There is a will as players that we must send across a strong message to the world that we are a strong nation and we are representing it.”
And Hafeez added the leadership of Afridi, criticised by former Australia skipper Ian Chappell as being too volatile a character to be a captain, had been key to Pakistan’s progress.
“As a leader, Shahid has controlled the team very well. He has played a huge role in keeping the team together. His biggest positive is that he controls and supports all the players to the hilt.
“And as a player, when you know that your captain is supporting you, you put in a 110 percent effort.”