IPL: Indian Premier League 2009

Afridi expects Shoaib to return with a bang


Skeptics may fear that Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan’s injury-prone fast bowler, is not fit enough to make a successful return to international cricket in his team’s Asia Cup opener against hosts Sri Lanka in Dambulla on June 15.

But ask Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi and he will tell you that the Rawalpindi Express is fully back on track after spending more than a year on the sidelines. “Shoaib is looking sharp and working really hard for the Asia Cup,” Afridi told ‘The News’ on Tuesday. “He is really motivated and I’m expecting him to return with a bang,” he stressed.

Afridi rubbished a whispering campaign in national cricket circles that he is taking a half-fit Shoaib to Sri Lanka where Pakistan will lock horns with old rivals India, Bangladesh and the hosts for Asian glory.

“I don’t know who is spreading such false rumours,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with Shoaib. He is fully fit and it’s showing in his output during training sessions. He is going that extra mile which is a great sign for us.”

Shoaib, who turns 35 this August, was recently recalled for the Asia Cup to bolster what is already a pretty impressive pace attack that also includes Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and Abdul Razzaq.

His last international appearance for Pakistan — a limited-overs series against Australia in UAE in May 2009 — ended unimpressively after which Shoaib was overlooked for a number of important assignments.

However, he made his presence felt in a domestic one-day tournament earlier this year and later passed a fitness test to earn a recall for the Asia Cup to be played from June 15-24. Afridi said that he has faced Shoaib in the nets during the Asia Cup preparatory camp under progress in Lahore, adding that the bowler is back in his element. “Shoaib still has that sting. I’ve faced him in the nets and I can say that he is pretty fast.”

Afridi said that Asia Cup could turn out to be Shoaib’s last chance to prove that he deserves to be a part of Pakistan plans for World Cup 2011.“For Shoaib, Asia Cup is a very important tournament and he knows it,” said Afridi. “He will be back in business if he bowls well in Sri Lanka. In fact he has this great chance to prove that Pakistan can benefit from him for future assignments, especially next year’s World Cup.”

Afridi believes that Shoaib’s successful return can boost Pakistan’s Asia Cup hopes. “We have several good bowlers in Asif, Aamer and Saeed Ajmal and if Shoaib delivers then we will be in a great position to beat any team.”

The skipper is also hopeful that Pakistan’s otherwise brittle batting will not disappoint in Sri Lanka. “We have three good openers in Salman (Butt), Imran (Farhat) and Shahzaib (Hasan) and the middle-order is also looking okay with Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal and a couple of young boys. I’m sure we will do well in the Asia Cup.” Pakistan’s brief training camp will conclude on Wednesday (today) and the team will leave for Sri Lanka on June 12 to feature in the Asia Cup.


LAHORE: Pakistan players in action during a practice session here at Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday. The Greenshirts are currently tuning up for the 2010 Asia Cup to be played in Sri Lanka from June 14-25

Source:Cricket News

Image Source:Cricinfo

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