IPL: Indian Premier League 2009

Afridi charged up for title defence


Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, has said his team is ready “tactically and technically” to defend their ICC World Twenty20 title in the West Indies from April 30. Following the penalties handed out by the PCB for breaches of discipline in Australia, Afridi also said it was his “mission as captain, with the support of players and team management, to keep the team away from any controversy.”

Most of the Pakistan squad left for the Caribbean from Lahore on Saturday via Dubai and London. Mohammad Asif will fly directly to London because he is not allowed to enter the UAE, while Mohammad Sami will reach the West Indies from New York, because he does not have a British visa. Pakistan also survived a fitness scare over wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who was unwell but passed fitness tests on Friday.

Pakistan’s cricketers had a rigourous training camp as preparation for the World Twenty20 and Afridi singled out fielding as a crucial area in the tournament. “We are fully equipped to face the challenges in the West Indies,” Afridi said. “I have a well balanced team in batting and bowling, and we have to further lift the standard of fielding. Fielding is crucial in this fastest version of the game and a lot of hard work was done to raise the standard.”

Afridi dismissed talk of Pakistan being light in batting and also emphasised the importance of spin on pitches that could aid slower bowlers. “We have got a lot of firepower in our batting. We have the experienced Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, young Umar Akmal, Khalid Latif and Salman Butt. As we expect spinning tracks, we have good options in Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and I. In the pace department we have Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq.”

Pakistan took a hit when the world’s leading wicket-taker in Twenty20 internationals, Umar Gul, failed to recover from an injury and was ruled out of the competition. Afridi, though, was confident he had enough fast bowlers to compensate. “Asif is there, we will certainly be looking for a forceful showing from him. But I also have the experienced Mohammad Sami, who is good form,” he told the News. “Then there is Mohammad Aamer, who is regarded among the best fast bowlers these days. Abdul Razzaq is there who is really seasoned and is good enough to get breakthroughs for us.”

Pakistan are pooled with Australia and Bangladesh in Group A for the first round of the ICC World Twenty20. They play Bangladesh in St Lucia on May 1.

Source:Cricket News

Image Source:Cricinfo

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