KARACHI: Shahid Afridi (Photo), the box office pioneer of white ball cricket from Pakistan, believes his “unpredictable” nation can summon the spirit of 2009 and win a second T20 World Cup.
Afridi was the man of the match in a seven-point semi-final victory over South Africa in the tournament 12 years ago, where he made 51.
He then played again in Sri Lanka’s eight-wicket rout in the final at Lord’s where he smashed an unbeaten 54.
Pakistan’s victory came just three months after the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka’s team in Lahore, an incident that sparked the cessation of international cricket in the country.
“We had this question of the attacks in Sri Lanka in our minds,” Afridi said. AFP.
“The whole nation was disappointed and frustrated, so this victory was really necessary.
“The victory brought happiness to the whole nation and unforgettable moments.”
Afridi burst onto the scene in 1996 when he broke the century record for fastest ODI cricket, hitting his hundred on 37 balls.
A record that held until 2014.
Afridi, who played 99 T20 Internationals for Pakistan, believes recent setbacks may once again inspire Babar Azam’s side in the centerpiece of Q20 2021.
A month before the mega-event, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned, apparently believing new board chairman Ramiz Raja would fire them anyway.
Then New Zealand abandoned its tour of the country a few minutes before the first ODI in Rawalpindi.
Three days later, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from the visit to Pakistan.
“This is Pakistani cricket for you, never a boring day,” Afridi added regretfully.
“Pakistan can surprise any team in the world. Dispose of them at your own risk. “
During his 22-year international career, Afridi has been at the heart of Pakistan’s “upside down” race in limited cricket.
Afridi anchored Pakistan’s race to the final of the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, winning 12 wickets which earned him the Player of the Tournament award.
Pakistan, however, have lost to Indian rivals twice – including the final.
“Pakistan offered the best entertainment at the first T20 World Cup,” Afridi insists.
“We lost to India in the group game after a bowl-out, which was something very new for us.”
Pakistan then lost the final with Misbah-ul-Haq falling on a misguided shot from the third ball of the final, with just six needed for a win.
“Misbah brought Pakistan into the game, but we lost by the smallest of margins,” Afridi said.
Under Afridi, defending champions Pakistan went on to lose in the 2010 Caribbean semi-finals when Michael Hussey scored 39 points in the last two overs to give Australia an unlikely victory.
“T20 suits our character,” added Afridi. “We have the talent, the approach and the aggressiveness required for this fast format.
“It’s a format that is appreciated all over Pakistan. We won against every team and then every team adopted that style.
“Bowling is now full of variety and new hitting techniques have developed.”
Afridi insists that Pakistan may again create some surprises in the UAE.
“The current Pakistani team is very talented even if it lacks experienced players. But, as we all know, never underestimate a Pakistani team! “- AFP