Veteran batsman Shoaib Malik vowed yesterday that Pakistan would go all out for a victory against Australia at cricket’s World Twenty20 to give their “big brother” Shahid Afridi a winning send-off.
The big-hitting Afridi, who no longer plays Test and one-day cricket, has been hinting heavily that he will retire after the ongoing tournament after being heavily criticised for Pakistan’s disappointing showing.
Pakistan have lost two of their three group matches and another defeat against Australia in Mohali today will snuff out any lingering hopes of a second World T20 title.
“This is going to be Afridi’s last World Cup. I respect him a lot, he is like an elder brother to me,” Malik said at the pre-match press conference.
“Nobody will be happier than me if we can win this World Cup for Afridi.
“Every player is trying to give their 100 percent. Winning or losing is not in our hands, but each one of us is taking responsibility and trying to give our best,” he said.
A veteran of 97 T20 internationals, Afridi has scored 1,391 runs while taking 97 wickets.
While his batting pyrotechnics once earned him the nickname “Boom Boom”, Afridi has endured a torrid time at the crease in the last couple of years, prompting critics to question his match-winning abilities.
In the ongoing WT20, Afridi hit a match-winning 19-ball 49 and also took two key wickets in the opening group match against lowly Bangladesh.
But he made just eight and 19 in the defeats against India and New Zealand and drew widespread criticism for some of his team selections.
A dejected Afridi admitted after the game against the Black Caps that he would call time on his career soon.
“In every game, we’re making mistakes and it’s not good for us. Maybe the next game (against Australia) will be the last one of my career,” the flamboyant all-rounder said.
“For now we have to forget this game and focus on Australia.”
Malik, 34, also stressed yesterday the team was looking at plugging the loopholes against Australia, who have one win and a loss from two outings so far.
“Our first goal is to win tomorrow. We missed out on scoring singles in our last game. Nobody is perfect. We are trying to improve our skills.”
A win is the least that Pakistan require to keep their slim chances of advancing in the tournament alive.
Malik also sought to dismiss talk of friction within the Pakistani dressing room, blaming the team’s poor performance for the speculation.
“Nobody talked about rift in our camp in 2009 when we won the World T20. Six of us were not talking to each other, we still won.
“When you lose games, all the talk starts.”
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi bats during a training session at the Punjab Cricket Stadium Association Stadium in Mohali ahead of their World T20 match against Australia.