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By Tapan Mohanta
Mirpur: Mar 6, 2014
“I will sideline myself, the moment I start thinking that I’m becoming a burden on my team. I will not let anyone an opportunity to talk. As long as I’m fit and give my life to cricket, I’ll continue playing the sport,” Afridi told reporters ahead of Pakistan’s Asia Cup 2014 summit clash against Sri Lanka on Friday.
“I want to give something to my country with my performance. There is no such thing that you will score runs with the bat every day. I’ve given my focus to bowling as well. I want to get myself ready in such a way that I deliver to the team, be it in batting or bowling,” he said at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium.
Afridi had to face a lot criticism for his inconsistency as many experts back home in Pakistan had questioned his place in the team. The 34-year-old replied at his critics with a 34 not-out against India and a 25-ball 59 against Bangladesh to take the defending champions into the Asia Cup final.
Asked to rate his two latest knocks, Afridi said, “There are many reasons that I won’t like to rate them but both of them were very important for me as well as for the country.”
Afridi said he knew best what he was doing and he did not need a coach.
“As I’ve said earlier also, having played at this level for so many years, I don’t need a coach. Mein apna coach behter hoon [I am better off with coaching myself]. I know what to do and what not to do. It’s about having the right people to back you and support you.”
Asked about the current Pakistani support staff, he said, “It was different earlier, it’s not that it was not good. It was better earlier so also today. The support team that we have now are all knowledgeable and keeps you positive.”
In a thrilling last over finish against India, Afridi smashed Ravichandran Ashwin for two sixes in the last over to seal a one-wicket victory on March 1, much the similar way Javed Miandad had done against Chetan Sharma in a Sharjah humdinger in 1986.
But after that Miandad heroics, Pakistan had suffered a string of defeats against India. Asked whether it will have the same effect this time around also, he said (with a smile), “It’s up to the Indian team how do they take these sixes”
Afridi further said he was looking forward to doing well in the ICC World Cup 2015. “Obviously, the World Cup 2015 is going to be a huge thing for me and my team.”
Incidentally, it was in Australia, Pakistan had tasted their lone World Cup triumph in 1992.
“There’s a lot of time to go for 2015. We have a lot of big series coming up. The management is supporting, if we continue to have the right kind of combination, and with God’s blessings, we hope to win the World Cup,” Afridi said.
Afridi also feels that with their performance in the Asia Cup, Pakistan have raised hopes for regaining the upcoming ICC World Twenty20 title.
“I’ve already mentioned how important this tournament is for us. The World Twenty20 is coming up after this and I think we peaked at the right time. That was the requirement,” he said.
Afridi’s fiery knocks of 34 not out and 59 against India and Bangladesh respectively, lifted Pakistan from difficult situations to seal their place in the final of the Asia Cup.
Afridi pointed out that against India, everything clicked in Pakistan’s favour.
“There was a positive intent in the side and we all were confident that we would do it. We always had the belief. The team which handles the pressure well wins during an India and Pakistan match. It’s all about playing under pressure,” he said.
Asked how he handled the pressure, Afridi said: “It’s not normal not to have pressure. There is always pressure on me because of my batting position. The required run-rate is always above nine or 10 runs.”
He, however, refused to rate both his innings and said: “I just knew that both the matches were important for Pakistan to win.”
Asked whether Pakistan was looking forward to break their jinx of losing to India in International Cricket Council (ICC) events with the World Twenty20, he said: “I’m not looking that ahead. Our focus presently is just on the Asia Cup final at the moment. When the World Twenty20 comes, we will talk about India-Pakistan then.”
Afridi further thanked the partisan Bangaldeshi crowd, who supported Pakistan in their thrilling one-wicket win over India.
“Obviously it backs you. I am thankful to the Bangladesh crowd for the way they supported us [during the match against India]. It’s really a good thing for us.”
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