Shahid Afridi (second right) poses with dignitaries after the signing ceremony.
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
Former captain and swashbuckling batsman Shahid Afridi picked up Pakistan as favorites to win the 2022 Cricket World Cup in Australia. Pakistan had lifted the second edition of the T20 World Cup in 2009 when they pulled off a thrilling win against Sri Lanka in the final and Afridi was named man of the match.
The 2022 Twenty20 World Cup will be held from Oct.16 to Nov.13 in Australia. A total of 12 team will vie for the top honours at the showpiece event.
“I am very positive about Pakistan’s chances of winning the World Cup, the way they are playing and performing. If you see the ICC rankings top five slots are occupied by Pakistani players. It has never happened in the past,” said Afridi, who was speaking on the sidelines of signing ceremony with Kashmir Premier League’s team Jammu Janbaz.
Afridi joined the Janbaz ahead of the second edition of the tournament, which will get under way in August. The tourney will also mark the return of Afridi to the competitive cricket after the stylish batsman withdrew abruptly from the seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) due to an injury.
“Pakistan have a very balanced squad and they are playing pretty well under Babar Azam. And the pitches in Australia are no more like they used to be. Those are the kind of pitches, where our fast bowlers, spinners and the batsmen will perform very well,” he added.
“We have one more series in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup. And before that Pakistan are going to Sri Lanka. The way Babar is leading the team and seniors are extending their support to him is wonderful.
“If we look at the batting, bowling and fielding of the team, it suits the pitches of the Australia and we should not have any excuse if we don’t win the title,” he added.
Pakistan have done pretty well of late in the Twenty20. They recently defeated West Indies in the home series. Though Pakistan team are at the third spot but ICC rankings are crowded by its players across all three formats of the game.
Babar is leading from the front as he is sitting on the top of the batsmen’s rankings in both T20 and ODIs. He has been on the top of the rankings for the longest period of time. Shaheen Shah Afridi is also in the top three across different formats of the games.
Drawing a comparison between former Indian captain Virat Kohli and Babar, Afridi gave the latter advantage due to his current form.
“Right now, Babar is on the top of the rankings. His focus is in the right direction. If we talk about Virat, he has a glorious past. He has a sound technique and I personally enjoy watching him bat,” stressed the destructive batsman who held the record for scoring the fastest century in ODIs for the almost 18 years.
Kohli is going through a bad phase and has not scored a century in any format of the game for almost two and half years. Kohli scored his 71st international ton against Bangladesh in November 2019.
Commenting on joining the Jabaz, Afridi said: “The main reason behind coming to the Jabaz from Rawlakot Hawk was because of the philanthropic side of the CEO of the team, who is a compassionate person. Moreover, they are a new franchise and I wanted to give them a good start, which will boost their morale,” he said. He had lifted the trophy with Hawks in the inaugural season.
Of late, Afridi in engaged in a lot of philanthropic work. He is running a Shahid Afridi Foundation to help the unprivileged and needy.
“Basically I want to give back to the society and work for the upliftment of the pood and downtrodden. My main focus is on providing the clean drinking water and promoting girls’ education,” he apprised.
The mercurial batsman ruled out joining the politics in future.
“I don’t have any plans to come into politics. If I join any political part they will throw me out as I will start speaking against them. I know only one politic and that is serving the mankind.”
Afridi was also critical of Pakistan Cricket Broad (PCB) for not enrolling a few players, who he thinks should have been there.
“I think there are three or four players who have not been given the due respect in terms of contract. Board should give due respect to the players. If players are given respect, then they will not talk negative about the board on the TV. The relationship between a player and the board is like that of a son and a father.
“We have played under PCB for 20 years and now if we talk bad about the board that is immoral. So, everything should be done with a mutual respect,” he opined.