Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi has opened up on the relaxed environment before last year’s World Cup fixture against India. Afridi, who earned the Man of the Match award for a game-changing spell, revealed that his teammates trusted each other to perform their respective roles well.
Pakistan got the monkey off their back by beating India for the first time in World Cups in 2021. The Men in Green annihilated their arch-rivals by ten wickets as India’s total of 151 hardly provided a challenge. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan made 68* and 79*, respectively, against a testing bowling attack.
Speaking to Cricbuzz, Shaheen recalled that all the newbies sensed an opportunity to do something special in that fixture. The left-arm speedster said:
“Most players were playing for the first time against India in a T20 World Cup, except Hafeez bhai and Shoaib bhai. And for us, it was an opportunity. The kind of cricket we played, we were very prepared and we had belief in each other. The captain’s role is crucial and he backed me and the team a lot. The dressing room environment was quite friendly.”
“There was a sense that if Shaheen can’t, then Hasan Ali will… and if Hasan Ali can’t, then Haris Rauf will. We had to play our best cricket and make people happy back home. And it was good fortune that we ended up on the right side.”
Afridi hurt India in the early overs of the game after Azam elected to bowl first. The 21-year-old dismissed Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul within the powerplay, followed by Virat Kohli at the death. His figures showed 4-0-31-3.
“I admire Virat Kohli a lot, he’s one of the best around” – Shaheen Shah Afridi
Afridi recalled being nervous bowling to the Indian skipper as the leg-side boundary was small, which required him to be accurate with his line and length. He admitted that luck was on his side as Kohli was a world-class batter and capable of punishing him. He said:
“The end I was bowling from, the leg-side boundary was smaller, say about 60-65 meter only. If I had bowled straight and fast at him [Virat Kohli], he would have flicked me or pulled me for runs. So I wanted to mix things up and bowl a slow bouncer at him so that it would have been difficult for him to go leg-side.”
“Luckily for me, the ball gripped and he got out. I admire Virat Kohli a lot, he’s one of the best around. Rohit, Rahul and Kohli are their mainstays and three of the best batsmen in the world. Kohli unki reedh ki haddi hai (Kohli is their spinal cord). And once you get them out, it gets difficult for the middle order.”
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Afridi, currently captaining the Lahore Qalandars in PSL 2022, has had a mixed tournament. The Qalandars have lost and won one game each, with their skipper snaring four wickets at 17.75.