Pakistan’s limited-overs skipper Shahid Afridi has said that his team needs to take robust starts both in bowling and batting in order to excel in the all-important World Cup, now just days away.
“We need strong, positive beginning in every game — both in bowling and batting — so that we can build on those to produce wins on consistent basis in the mega event,” Afridi said while talking to Dawn on Wednesday.
Afridi was retained as national captain for the all-important World Cup just a few days ago after the belligerent all-rounder led his brigade to triumph in the New Zealand one-day series.
Since last year, he had been under severe criticism from various quarters over captaincy as well as his individual performance. However, he ultimately managed to pull his charges together against the Kiwis besides improving his individual show in the six-match series.
Asked to pinpoint the areas where his side required to improve, Afridi stressed that exploitation of power-play could prove crucial in the Feb 19-April 2 spectacle where Pakistan will meet Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in the first round.
“Proper utilisation of power-play is vital, both by the batsmen and the bowlers. Our batsmen must score quick runs in those power-plays while bowlers are naturally expected to contain the opposition at crucial stages when field restrictions are on,” said Afridi, a veteran of 312 ODIs.
Describing his relationship with his deputy Misbah-ul-Haq as perfect and brotherly, Afridi earnestly requested the media to avoid creating needless controversies that may damage his team’s campaign in the forthcoming World Cup.
On being asked to pick any specific match-winning batsman or bowler for the mega event, the captain candidly said the performance of the entire squad was crucial.
“Every player has to come out and deliver and all my team members are equally important for me and for the result we seek. Depending entirely on one or two players in the World Cup would be detrimental,” he emphasised.
Commenting on his team’s likely opening pair in the quadrennial event, Afridi asserted that Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shahzad, who opened the proceedings in the New Zealand ODIs, would continue in the same role with Kamran Akmal to come at number three.
Responding on whether seasoned all-rounder Abdul Razzaq should come up the order to increase the tempo of the innings, he reckoned it was better if players like Razzaq and himself came to the crease after 40-over mark with a decent total already achieved. “In this way our team can attack more productively in death overs.”
Afridi, who made his first World Cup appearance in the 1999 event in England, only expressed a brief reaction on the recent spot-fixing bans the ICC imposed on Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamir and Mohammad Asif, by terming them as “very regrettable”.
The upcoming World Cup will be Afridi’s fourth.
By Ibrahim Farooqi
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