KARACHI - Former Pakistan T20I captain Shahid Afridi believes his statement about ‘lack of talent’ in the country, which he gave in July 2016, was misinterpreted.

Afridi, who represented Pakistan in 398 ODIs and 98 T20Is maintaining a strike rate of well above 100, said his statement was supposed to highlight the lack of facilities to garner young talent .

“What I meant to say was that if you were to go back in time a few years ago, it was extremely difficult to keep your place in the side due to the pressure of fresh talent wanting to take your place,” Afridi told PakPassion. “Nowadays, this pressure has been reduced since we can barely see two to three players coming through the ranks to challenge the players in the national team.”

The 37-year-old then explained the reason behind it. “The reason is that we simply do not have facilities to train and develop younger players in special academies and under the supervision of specialised coaches,” he said. “We are no longer in the old days where young players could be developed without needing such facilities. The demands of the modern-day game have changed dramatically.” Afridi believes Pakistan-India cricketing relations can help both countries ease political tensions. The Asian giants haven’t played each other in a bilateral series since 2012, but do compete against each other in International Cricket Council (ICC) events.

“I feel that cricket can play an important role in normalising relations between India and Pakistan,” he said. “Sports, whether it be cricket or football, can have that effect. So really, there should be no doubt about it. Pakistan has always extended its hand of friendship towards India as far as cricket is concerned and I do wish India would reciprocate.”

Pakistan were crowned 2017 Champions Trophy champions after spirited performances against England, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka, and Afridi thinks the same players should take to the field come the 2019 World Cup.

However, when asked to comment on Pakistan’s chances in the England event, Afridi refused to give any concrete answers. “It’s a little early to make any firm predictions on how well Pakistan will do in the 2019 World Cup”.

He added: “It will all depend on how this ODI team performs against other teams in the build up to the tournament. I would advise the team management to persist with the current ODI squad we have and not look to change it too much ahead of the World Cup.  We should continue to give more chances to the same bunch of players and iron out any issues with their techniques so that we have a good, tried-and-tested combination going into the ICC event.”

Since the appointment of wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed as the captain of Pakistan, the limited-overs sides have shown a lot of promise; however, the Test team saw a slump in form when they were whitewashed 2-0 by Sri Lanka in the UAE, recently.

Afridi recalled suggesting Sarfraz to withdraw from Test captaincy if he didn’t feel it was his cup of tea. “I recall advising Sarfraz that if he had trouble handling all three formats, then he should look to just play ODIs and T20Is. However, if he felt he was mentally up to it and physically fit, and could handle the pressure brought on by captaincy in all three formats, then he should carry on and do his best for Pakistan.”

He continued by calling him the best man to lead Pakistan at the moment. “Having said that, from what I see now, Sarfaraz seems to be the best fit for captain in all three formats of the game.”