COLOMBO – Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez expects Shahid Afridi to recover from injury in time to play a decisive role in his country’s attempt to win another ICC World Twenty20.
Afridi is hoping to overcome a thumb injury before the tournament, which runs from Sept. 18 to Oct. 7 in Sri Lanka.
“Shahid Afridi is a big match winner for us and hopefully he will deliver for us once more,” Hafeez told reporters Wednesday.
Pakistan opens its Group D campaign on Sept. 23, when it meets New Zealand at Pallekele. The third team in the group is Bangladesh.
Hafeez believes Pakistan is well placed to repeat its 2009 World Twenty20 success, particularly because his players are familiar with the Sri Lankan pitches and conditions.
“Pallekele will suit us because the ball does a lot there,” he said. “The seamers will benefit and we should do well.
“We have a good bowling unit with Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir, who is difficult to deal with with his unusual action.
“The reason the Pakistan Cricket Board allowed everybody to go to Sri Lanka and play in the SLPL (Sri Lanka Premier League) was to get used to the conditions, especially in Pallekele and Colombo.”
“I think the morale of the team is very high even though we lost the final game against Australia,” Hafeez said of the 94-run defeat Monday, Pakistan’s heaviest loss in Twenty20s.
Before that, Pakistan won the first match and came through the tied second game by taking a one-over eliminator.
“We really got the momentum we were looking forward to,” Hafeez said.
He said getting to play archrival India in a warm-up game would give his team an opportunity to play a pressure game even before the tournament.
Hafeez said the appointment of Javed Miandad as Pakistan’s batting coach would give them a major boost.
“Javed will share with us some valuable inputs and it’s a good thing,” Hafeez said. “Whatever he tells us, we look forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Mahendera Singh Dhoni, the India captain, has welcomed the return to action of Yuvraj Singh after his treatment for a malignant lung tumor.
“He is a champion player, a match winner and he also helps me get the kind of balance in the side especially in a T20 format,” Dhoni said.
Yuvraj played in India’s one-run defeat to New Zealand in a T20 international in Chennai Tuesday.
Dhoni added: “We don’t really play with the fifth bowler and we don’t have a genuine all-rounder, so part-timers like Yuvraj, (Virat) Kohli, (Suresh) Raina and Rohit (Sharma) are very useful in T20 cricket.”
India begins its campaign on Sept. 19, when it takes on Afghanistan in Colombo in a Group A match. – Agencies