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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Personal reason behind late departure: Afridi

After two versions of official explanation emerged on Pakistan's limited overs captain Shahid Afridi's failure to leave along with the national team for the tour of the West Indies on Thursday, the skipper clarified that a personal reason had prevented him from boarding the flight.

When Afridi did not leave for the West Indies along with the rest of the Pakistani squad from Lahore, it raised a lot of eyebrows over the real reason for his delayed departure and the official explanation also did not help the cause as two different versions cropped up.

While the first version said that he had forgotten his passport in Karachi, the other version said he had requested to leave later as he wanted to return to Karachi from Lahore to meet with his father who is not keeping well.

The flamboyant allrounder however, insisted that there was nothing fishy behind his late departure.

"I had some personal work to take care of and that is why I am leaving now," Afridi told the media before departing for Dubai at the Karachi airport, today afternoon.

Afridi's failure to also attend the last day of the training camp in Lahore yesterday, had also raised questions. But the skipper explained that he was leaving with a clear mind to win the series in the West Indies and also make an impact with his batting.

"I realise that our batting is an area of concern and it is also my responsibility as captain to contribute with the bat. In the coming series my main emphasis will be on my batting and I want to score some runs," said Afridi, who finished with 21 wickets in the recently-concluded World Cup but he flopped with the bat.

Pakistan will play a Twenty20 International and five-match ODI series under Shahid Afridi's captaincy, while two Test-match series under Misbah-ul-Haq.

Afridi said the West Indies tour was a very good opportunity for the five uncapped players in the side and the other youngsters to perform well and make a mark.

"This series is the start of our preparations for next year's T20 World Cup and I think this tour is a good platform for the new players to show that they can succeed at the international level," he said.

The national selectors have picked uncapped wicketkeeper, Muhammad Salman, batsman Usman Salahuddin, pacers Junaid Khan and Sadaf Hussain and allrounder Hammad Azam in the team. Though Azam and Junaid have toured with the senior team before, but are yet to play any match.

Afridi also said that other youngsters in Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal and Wahab Riaz must also continue their progress at the top level.

"I think as a team we all have to realise our responsibilities to deliver for the country and this series will give us a good opportunity to start afresh and prepare for the upcoming events," he said.

Earlier on the day, before the team's departure for the West Indies, team manager Intikhab Alam told the media that he was hopeful of a good performance by the team.

"I am hopeful the young cricketers who have been picked in the side will perform well and Inshallah help us to win the series against West Indies," said Alam.

Afridi targets World Twenty20 crown

Soon after Shahid Afridi was installed as Pakistan’s one-day captain last year, the flamboyant all-rounder announced that his most cherished desire is to help his country win World Cup 2011.
Afridi did lead Pakistan impressively to the World Cup semifinals but his team flopped against old rivals India in Mohali on March 30.
Now Afridi, who has been retained as Pakistan’s limited-overs captain following the World Cup defeat, has set his sights on the ICC World Twenty20 Championship to be played in Sri Lanka next year.
“The only way I can really overcome the disappointment of our defeat against India is by winning the Twenty20 World Cup,” Afridi told Arab News before his departure for West Indies on Thursday.
Afridi, 31, said that he is focusing on the 2012 World Twenty20 Championship because he doesn’t know whether he will still be playing international cricket in 2015 when the next edition of the World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand.
“I would love to be around for the 2015 World Cup but that’s like four years away. That’s why I’m just focusing on the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and want us to take the right steps to ensure that we raise a team that is good enough to win that tournament,” he stressed.
Pakistan reached the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 with Afridi emerging as one of their best players in the event. Later he played a pivotal role in Pakistan’s title-winning triumph in the second edition of the tournament in 2009 in England.
Afridi was Pakistan’s captain in the third ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies in 2010 when the Greenshirts fell to Australia in the semifinals from a seemingly-winning position.
Afridi, who is regarded as one of the most destructive all-rounders in the Twenty20 format, is confident that Pakistan can go all the way in Sri Lanka which will host the next edition of the hugely-popular tournament.
“We have won the Twenty20 World Cup before and we can do it again,” he said.
But Afridi was quick to add that Pakistan will have to put together a winning formula in the lead up to the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Championship. And to achieve that, Afridi believes that Pakistan will have to learn a thing or two from India.
“The Indians started preparing for the World Cup almost two years before the event began and then went on to win it,” he said. “We, too, will have to start right away in our preparations for the Twenty20 World Cup. We should be selecting players for limited-overs matches with an eye on that assignment. That’s the only way we can prepare ourselves in the best possible manner.”
Afridi, who has scored 671 runs and taken 53 wickets from 42 T20 Internationals, is of the view that Pakistan can bank on the existing pool of bowlers but their batting line-up is a different story.
“We have some of the world’s best spinners when it comes to limited-overs matches, especially Twenty20 Internationals. Same is the case with our pacers which is why I’m sure we won’t face many problems in raising a strong bowling attack for the Twenty World Cup,” he said.
“But when it comes to batsmen, I’m not that sure. We lack quality batters both at the top and the middle-order. We need some really good, young guys who can strengthen our batting in the Twenty20 format.”
Afridi is hoping that national selectors will sniff out young blood to help Pakistan overcome this weakness. “It’s a big challenge for our selectors but I’m sure that with the sort of talent we have, Pakistan will get quality batters for Twenty20 matches soon.”
Personally, Afridi is working hard to improve his batting after flopping with the bat in the World Cup.
“As captain and a senior player I believe it’s my responsibility to do contribute with the bat too,” said Afridi, who took 21 wickets in the World Cup. “We will be playing our next series in the West Indies and I’m confident of regaining my batting form there.”
Pakistan will play one Twenty20 International, five One-day Internationals and two Tests during the tour of West Indies. Afridi will lead Pakistan in the six limited-over games while Misbah will take over the captaincy for the two Tests.

Shahid Afridi Special Interview To Geo 14 February 2011 (SCORE)

India cricketers' tour of Pakistan 'not in near future'

India's cricket team is not likely to visit Pakistan in the near future, an Indian cricket official has said.
Rajiv Shukla's comment came after media reports said the prime ministers of two countries had decided in-principle to resume bilateral cricket ties.
Last month, Indian PM Manmohan Singh hosted Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani for the World Cup semi-final in Mohali.
The two PMs had vowed to repair relations as they watched India beat Pakistan in the match.
Mr Shukla, who is the vice president of India's cricket board, told the BBC that they had not received any word from the government on resumption of cricket ties between the two neighbours.
"We've only seen media reports," he said.
Mr Shukla said there are no free slots available on the cricket tour calendar to accommodate an India-Pakistan series until the end of March 2012.
The International Cricket Council has also not cleared Pakistan as a venue after the visiting Sri Lankan team was attacked in Lahore in March 2009.
Six Sri Lankan cricketers were injured in the attack and no international team has visited Pakistan since then.
On Wednesday, media reports, quoting government sources, said the Mr Singh and Mr Gilani had agreed to resume bilateral cricketing ties.
They said the Indian team would tour Pakistan first and the Pakistani team would then pay a return visit.
The time of the visit, the venues and other logistics would be decided by the cricket boards of the two countries, reports said.
India suspended bilateral cricketing ties with Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks of November 2008.
The last bilateral series between India and Pakistan was in 2007-2008 when the Pakistani team visited India.
Last month, Mr Singh invited Mr Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan semi-final match in Mohali city in Punjab.
Mr Singh said cricket had been a "uniting factor" and that they should cast aside "ancient animosities".
During their talks, Mr Gilani invited Mr Singh to visit Pakistan. He also said he hoped that the Indian cricket team would play in Pakistan soon.

Younis wants PCB to look for batting coach

After Pakistan’s poor batting in the World Cup, Miandad was approached for help and said he couldn’t become the batting coach until after the tour of West Indies starting this week.
But on the eve of the team’s departure for the Caribbean, Miandad turned down the batting coach offer for personal reasons.
However, the batting great and former Pakistan coach gave batsmen tips during a two-day conditioning camp at Lahore which ended on Wednesday.
“Sometimes I don’t understand why we keep going round and round,” Younis said on Wednesday. “If he (Miandad) is not willing to do it or is busy we can look to someone else.”
Pakistan leaves on Thursday for West Indies to play two tests, five one-day internationals and a Twenty20.
Younis said the team needed a batting coach and it would be better if the Pakistan Cricket Board looked for someone suitable for the role.
“If a batting coach comes in it will be good for Pakistan,” he said. “It’s not my personal thing, it’s about Pakistan and whosoever comes in is more than welcome.”
Batting let down Pakistan in the World Cup in which India defeated Shahid Afridi’s team by 29 runs in the semifinals.
Pakistan struggled in the group matches when it could score only 184 against the likes of Canada.
However, Younis said there was nothing wrong with the technique of his batsmen who posted individual scores of 30-50 runs.
“We talk about technique of our batsmen which I don’t think is the real problem,” he said. “It’s a matter of maturity, and if they play some more cricket they will get matured.
“There’s a big question mark on our batsmen, even before the World Cup. They need to stay at the wicket for longer periods to score big runs.”
Pakistan’s selectors have either dropped or rested at least four World Cup players — wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, experienced middle-order batsman Younis Khan, allrounder Abdul Razzaq and fast bowler Umar Gul — at least for the first leg of the tour, the limited-overs matches.
Younis said the changes were expected, so Pakistan could begin preparing for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Pakistan have included new left-arm pace bowlers Junaid Khan and Sadaf Hussain, and middle-order batsman Usman Salahuddin and allrounder Hammad Azam were included after impressive performances in domestic cricket.
Younis said the tour of West Indies will not be easy for Pakistan but it was an ideal opportunity for youngsters to show their skills.
“The tour should not be taken lightly as West Indies is always a difficult team to beat on their home soil,” he said. “Our effort is to give chances to the new players and try to win the tour clear cut.”

Pakistan team leaves for West Indies tour

The Pakistan cricket team on Thursday departed for their tour to the West Indies, according to DawnNews.
Team Manager Intikhab Alam said he was hopeful that the young players included in the squad would prove their merit during this tour.
Shahid Afridi will captain Pakistan in the limited over format while Misbah-Ul-Haq will lead the test squad. Pakistan will play a warm-up match on April 18, while the tour formally starts from the April 21.
Meanwhile, West Indian selectors also on Thursday unveiled a thirteen-member squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan.
The men from the Caribbean will play a five-match ODI series, in addition to one Twenty20, and two test matches against Pakistan scheduled to start from 21st April, 2011 in St.Lucia.
The Chairman of the West Indian selection panel, Clyde Butts stated that the core of the team is capable of serving for years to come.
According to him, the fresh blood inducted in the squad has the potential and the desire to succeed, and hence received the nod.
Butts added that the time was rife for making wholesome changes as the West Indians vowed to regain their lost glory at the highest level of the game.
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