LAHORE: Pakistan’s T20 skipper and senior all-rounder Shahid Afridi said on Wednesday that the upcoming series against New Zealand bears great importance for Pakistan before the T20 World Cup and added that he has a balanced and competitive side under him which must guard itself against making silly mistakes.
The Pakistan team leaves for New Zealand on Jan 10 to play three T20 Internationals and as many One-day Internationals.
“We have a balanced side for the NZ tour but if we commit club level mistakes, we can’t beat any team,” he said candidly. “The World Cup is all about best players and best teams. Senior players should take more responsibility but at the same time juniors also have to share the burden as it is difficult to stage a comeback in T20 cricket after committing mistakes.”
“Our batsmen have to produce big partnerships and have to avoid losing wickets in quick successions. Our bowlers are also failing to give their traditional display, especially in the last overs of the innings. We are working on these problems,” Afridi said.
‘I will quit the game if Salman, Asif return to Pakistan cricket’
He said he had not given any warning to players to perform and added that he had requested the selectors not to make changes in the T20 side until after the World Cup. “We have been experimenting with different players for long but now we have to finalize our team and stick to it. We have the best team and we are hopeful of playing the semi-final and final of the World Cup,” he said confidently. Commenting on the return of banned pacer Mohammad Amir to the ranks, Afridi said, “ No doubt Amir is a talented bowler and he has performed well for Pakistan in the past. But even if Amir fails to get a visa for New Zealand, I am confident that we have a balanced side for the tour.”
The PCB formally applied for Amir’s visa on Wednesday and is expecting a decision on it within the next few days.
Earlier, talking to the reporters during the fitness camp which concludes on Thursday, Afridi said he did not feel the same amount of sympathy for Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif as he did for Amir. “Look, Amir is a different person. He did commit a mistake but he confessed it and also spoke the truth about it before the court. So I definitely have a soft corner for him and believes that he should be given another chance,” Afridi said.
“The other two (Salman and Asif) have been telling lies and criticising the team’s performances on TV channels during their five-year bans,” he added.
He said he would quit cricket if the tainted duo returned to Pakistan cricket.
Commenting on Australia’s sudden pull out from the Junior World Cup in Bangladesh due to security fears, Afridi said: “By not playing you are in fact helping those who are the enemies of the game. A major cricket nation like Australia should be setting good examples.”
Hailing the PCB decision to hold the the fitness camp in Lahore, he said: “It was the need of the hour because we may not get a chance to hold such camps just before the World Cup. The camp helped us in improving our fitness.”
He said though lanky fast bowler Mohammad Irfan was not selected for the T20 series against New Zealand but they were still keeping an eye on him for the World Cup.
About Ahmed Shahzad, Afridi said he was suffering from some fitness issues but would surely be fit in a few days. “Whichever team faces the pressure well in the World Cup will be successful,” he believed.
Earlier, in an unpleasant incident, Afridi was involved in a spat with a local reporter over some of the remarks that he made about the all-rounder’s below par captaincy in T20 games.
Afridi allegedly lost his cool at the reporter’s blunt question and said: “I was not expecting such kind of a ‘stupid’ question from you.” This causes a furore of sorts and resulted in a small protest in front of the Gaddafi Stadium by some of the journalists.
Pakistan cricket team manager Intikhab Alam later tried to clear the air and said that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has always guided players about handling the media in a professional manner and requested newsmen to back T20 skipper Afridi in his World Cup preparations.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2016