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Afridi refuses to blame 'sluggish' Misbah for loss to India
Karachi, April 2 (ANI): Pakistan's limited-overs captain Shahid Afridi has come to the rescue of Test skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, who received heavy criticism from all quarters following the team's 29-run defeat at the hands of India in the World Cup semi-final clash at Mohali on March 30.

Dejected Pakistani fans and critics blamed a sluggish Misbah-ul-Haq for the suffocating defeat in the match, which also led to Pakistan's ouster from the tournament.

Misbah, who hit a lacklustre 56 off 76 balls, played what resembled a test innings in the critical World Cup semi-final match, and got a little faster only at the fag end of the game, when Pakistan's loss had become quite evident.

"I failed to understand what Misbah ul-Haq was trying to do. He scored the first 10 runs off 32 deliveries. Misbah was the one who put pressure on Umar Akmal and in turn he (Umar) lost his cool against Harbhajan Singh," an upset Wasim Akram was quoted as saying.

However, Afridi refused to blame his World Cup deputy Misbah for the 29-run loss.

"Misbah wanted to take the game closer to the end and then go for the big shots, which wasn't a wrong strategy," the Dawn quoted Afridi, as saying.

He said that the members of the Pakistan squad remain very supportive of each other, and the defeat did not damage their unity.

The Pakistan cricket team was accorded a warm welcome by its fans as they returned home early Friday, despite losing to archrivals India in the semi-finals.

"The great support shown by the nation has really held us together after the loss," Afridi told reporters.

However, after all their exploits in the tournament, Afridi wants a break not only for himself, but all senior players.

"To lose the semi-final was disappointing, but I think now the time has come for senior players to be rested and new players to be tried out," he said.

Afridi also said that he was disappointed to hear Interior Minister Rehman Malik's statement on match-fixing, which he said was 'mistimed' and 'inappropriate', given the pressure the team was under at that point of time.

"The Interior Minister called me a few times before the match and I ensured him that the team is wholly committed to the cause of winning," he added.

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