India vs Pakistan Asia Cup T20: Afridi aims to unleash fire power to blunt batting might

Shahid Afridi attends a training session at the Khan Shahed Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah, Bangladesh. (AFP)

Pakistan T20 skipper Shahid Afridi said he wanted to take responsibility and put up a winning performance when his team takes on arch-rivals India in their Asia Cup opener on Saturday.

Afridi's flagging performances have meant Pakistan have won just one of their last six T20 internationals, and the enigmatic captain knows it.

The all-rounder scored just 38 runs in three matches against New Zealand in January and also failed against England in November.

“I always gave importance to my performances because it is important for my team,” Afridi told reporters at Fatullah, just outside the Bangladesh capital on Friday.

Afridi said he was taking his bowling more seriously as the team's batting order did not allow him to play the power-hitter's role at the top.

“My main strength is my bowling but I understand that where I bat I can also contribute for the team and that is important.

“Whether it is 20 or 30 runs but it is important as it all counts,” he added.

India has defeated Pakistan in all but one of their previous T20 internationals but Afridi said past results were irrelevant.

“I am not thinking what we have done against India in the past because I don't live in the past,” he said.

The skipper said he hoped that his team would be able to give India a competitive match after their players had some useful practice in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League.

Afridi, who celebrates hist 36th birthday on March 1, brushed aside his retirement talks to focus on the Asia Cup and next month's ICC World T20 in India.

Last year Afridi announced his intention to retire from international cricket after the World T20, but in a recent interview with a leading cricket website he said he is facing a “lot of pressure” to change his mind.

Aware that retirement talks could distract his team, Afridi said he was setting his sights on the Asia Cup and ICC World 20.

“I think for me the Asia Cup and the World Cup (World T20) is more important than my retirement. I am focusing on that at the moment,” Afridi said.

The Pakistan Super League experience is something that would help the Pakistanis at the Asia Cup.

Afridi hinted they could unleash a four-man pace attack bolstered by the return of Mohammad Sami and could be spoiled having in their arsenal Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Amir.

If he gets on the field, Sami will be playing his first game for Pakistan since May 2015, when he toured Zimbabwe with the limited-overs team.

Afridi himself will be in the fray with his quick legspin, while Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz, the uncapped 21-year-old, provide more spin options, as does Shoaib Malik.

India have had the better T20 record between the two teams over the years, winning five and losing only one.

They are buoyed by a 3-0 series win in Australia and a 2-1 win over Sri Lanka at home before beating Bangladesh in the Asia Cup opener.

But, as Afridi stressed, playing the PSL over the past many days has been a boon for the Pakistan players, who are match fit.

“Not playing together for Pakistan in the last few days is not going to be an issue because they have played for different franchises in the PSL, they are all together.”

Teams (from)

India: MS Dhoni (capt/wk), R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Hardik Pandya, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh.

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (capt), Anwar Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Sami, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Sharjeel Khan, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Wahab Riaz.

 

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