Pakistan’s new Test and one-day captain, Shahid Afridi wants to root out indiscipline and infighting among his teammates in a bid to put the country’s under-achieving cricket team back on track.
Afridi said Wednesday he came out of self-imposed Test exile for the sake of Pakistan cricket and will make all efforts to lift the team out of the prevailing crisis.
‘My main task is to make a good team out of this talented bunch of players,’ he stressed. ‘I also want to promote unity and harmony among the boys because that’s the only way to get the best out of them,’ Afridi was quoted as saying in ‘The News’.
Pakistan cricket was rocked by a major controversy when the players got involved in a lot of mud-slinging during a probe conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the aftermath of a catastrophic tour of Australia that concluded last February.
Several leading players accused each other of indiscipline during the proceedings of the probe committee after which seven of the country’s leading cricketers were slapped with strict penalties.
Afridi, 30, said as Pakistan’s new captain he would crack down on such negative behaviour.
‘I will not tolerate any sort of conspiracies in my team,’ he said. ‘I will encourage the boys to discuss their problems openly and I will ask them to bury their differences. When we leave on a tour I will ask them to leave all their problems behind and just focus on giving their best for the country.’
Afridi, who will be leading Pakistan in next month’s Asia Cup and more importantly during the challenging tour of England, made it clear that it will be a demanding task.
‘It’s a very tough task. I haven’t played Test cricket for quite some time but will have to lead the team from the front on the tour of England.
‘To play against Australia and England in English conditions would need a lot of guts. But I am hopeful that the boys will rise to the challenge.’
Afridi, however, was quick to warn his fans against raising their expectations.
‘We are good in limited-overs cricket but will take time to settle down in Tests and we need to be patient.’
However, Afridi is hopeful that a likely return of experienced players like Younis Khan and Shoaib Akhtar will boost the team’s chances in the Asia Cup and in England where his team will play back-to-back series against Australia and the hosts from July to September.
‘Younis is coming back, Shoaib is coming back and that’s going to help me a lot.’
Afridi is also optimistic that a few youngsters whom Pakistan are likely to include for the two assignments will also shine in Sri Lanka and in England.
‘Almost as important as senior players are the newcomers because they hold the key to our team’s future,’ he said. ‘We are planning to try out a few youngsters in the forthcoming events and I’m hopeful that they will not disappoint us.’
Afridi played the last of his 26 Tests almost four years back in Manchester and his critics doubt his chances of making a successful comeback in Tests.
‘I will focus on my batting and my bowling because that’s the way I can contribute properly in Tests. It won’t be easy but I’m mentally prepared to take up this challenge for the sake of the team.’