Karachi: The axing of experienced all-rounder Shahid Afridi for the three Tests against India may have taken Pakistani cricket community by surprise but chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed justified his decision, saying the player was not in top form and needed to get his confidence back.
“We want him to play some domestic cricket and get back his form. He is such a senior player that we don’t want him travelling with the team as a reserve player,” Salahuddin said on Saturday.
Though Afridi played a vital role in Pakistan’s win in the second ODI at Mohali with a cameo, his batting and bowling have both been off-colour in the last two matches in Kanpur and Gwalior. His body language too has not been as positive as it normally is.
Afridi’s supporters point out that there is definitely something wrong with the way his body language has fallen since Mohali. “He is normally a very positive player and always on the move,” former captain Rashid Latif noted.
But the chief selector said it was difficult to strike a balance in the Test playing XI and pick Afridi if the tour selection committee decided to play three pacers and one spinner.
But Afridi’s supporters say that his record in Tests is far more impressive than some of the other players retained for the longer version matches.
Afridi has in 26 Tests scored 1683 runs with five hundreds and eight fifties at an average of 37.4 and has also taken 47 wickets with his fastish leg-spin.
“Keep in mind that while playing Tests in India you need players with guts and experience like Afridi to perform under pressure. So how can they ignore him,” cricket administrator Saleem Swaleh said.
Swaleh is a close friend and supporter of Afridi and the all-rounder had mentioned his name specifically at the prize distribution ceremony of the Twenty20 World Cup final in South Africa while receiving the Man of the Series award.
Swaleh’s argument appears to have substance as Afridi’s record against India is striking.
In eight Tests he has scored 709 runs at an average of 47.26 with three hundreds and three fifties against it and also captured 14 wickets.
“You look at some of the other players in the Test side, neither their records nor experience compare well with that of Afridi’s against India,” Latif said.
And as is the case when Pakistan is not doing well there have also been rumours circulating in Pakistan cricket community that Afridi had perhaps lost interest after an alleged brawl with vice-captain Younis Khan after the Mohali match but manager Talat Ali said this was not true.
“I don’t know from where this has come from. But no such incident took place and everything is fine in the team,” he said from India.
Afridi himself had said before leaving for the Indian tour that he was keen to play in the Tests as he always enjoyed playing and doing well against India. — PTI