Shaheen working to gain full fitness but says pace hasn’t dropped

Published November 1, 2022
A file photo of Pakistan’s star bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi. — Photo courtesy: PCB
A file photo of Pakistan’s star bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi. — Photo courtesy: PCB

PERTH: Shaheen Shah Afridi might be a bit rusty after a three-month injury layoff but Pakistan’s star fast bowler believes it hasn’t impacted his pace.

The national team’s management ensured Shaheen’s availability for the ongoing T20 World Cup after he picked up a knee injury while playing a Test match against Sri Lanka in June, but the left-armer, otherwise a nightmare for batters, has been far from his best in the showpiece so far.

His first and only wicket in the tournament came in Pakistan’s third match, against the Netherlands, after below-par performances in losing causes against India and Zimbabawe.

Read: Pakistan face improbable path to T20 World Cup semi-final

“It is not easy to come back from such an injury after three months,” Shaheen told reporters after the Netherlands encounter on Sunday.

“I am trying to give my 100 per cent. I think my pace was similar earlier too. The average pace was around 135-140 kph; I am trying to get back to full fitness.

“Match fitness is different. When you come back after three months, it is difficult to put in full effort [immediately].”

Shaheen admitted his time away from cricket in England — where he underwent rehabilitation — took a toll on him and that it was not easy for the 22-year-old to cope with a situation that was a first for him in his five-year-long international career.

“May god never put anyone through this injury but those who pick up this injury obviously know how difficult it is,” he said.

“I was alone [in England], I struggled for two-three months.

“For the first two months I didn’t even walk properly because the swelling would increase. I just went to the gym then.”

Shaheen, who was named the ICC Cricketer of The Year for 2021, said bowling in the indoor nets in England helped him prepare for the hard playing surfaces in Australia.

“In the last two weeks I bowled in the indoors so that I am somewhat prepared to run on these surfaces,” he remarked.

“The summer was over so there were no outdoor pitches available so I could only bowl indoors.”

The Pakistan pace spearhead, however, felt relieved about finally making it to squad ahead the T20 World Cup, adding that he was helped by support from team-mates and friends.

“I have never had such a long injury layoff,” he said.

“Of course your friends and team-mates back you and appreciate you. My target was to play the World Cup, and thanks to god I could.”

Pakistan’s realistic chances of making it to the semi-finals of the World Cup are now over and only extraordinary results from the remaining Group 2 matches can save them from a first-round exit.

Shaheen believed Pakistan lost two close matches against India and Zimbabwe, but admitted the Babar Azam-led side had the potential to do better in their remaining fixtures against Bangladesh and South Africa.

“We lost two close matches but as a team we know we are a better team than that,” said the pacer.

“At the same time we dominated those two matches for long periods. They are history now. We are just sticking together and trying to do our best.

“See we can control only what is in our hand. So we are not thinking of the other matches. If it is in our fate, we will make it.

“We will try to give our best in the remaining matches.”

Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2022



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