DHAKA - The Asia Cup is Pakistan’s first tournament under a new-look team management, with Moin Khan as coach and Zaheer Abbas as chief consultant. The regime change has coincided with a stunning return to batting form for Shahid Afridi, whose unbeaten 18-ball 34 against India and a brutal 25-ball 59 against Bangladesh were instrumental in Pakistan reaching the final.
But correlation, Afridi has said, didn’t quite mean causation. While praising the support staff for backing him, he said he was essentially his own coach. “It was different earlier, it’s not that it was not good,” Afridi said, after Pakistan’s practice session on Thursday.
“The support team that we have now are all knowledgeable and keep you positive. As I’ve said earlier also, having played at this level for so many years, I don’t need a coach. I am better off coaching myself. I know very well what to do and what not to do. It’s about having the right people to back you and support you.”
Pakistan, Afridi said, had peaked at the right time in the tournament, and this would help them at the World Twenty20 as well. “I’ve already mentioned before how important for us this series is,” he said. “The World Twenty20 is coming up after this. I think we peaked at the right time, that was the requirement.” Pakistan have never beaten India in an ICC world event, be it the 50-over World Cup or the World T20. Asked if they could overcome the jinx when they meet in the World Twenty20 on March 21, Afridi said he wouldn’t think about it till the Asia Cup ended.
“I’m not looking that ahead,” he said. “My and my team’s focus is just on the Asia Cup final at the moment. When the World Twenty20 comes, we will talk about the India-Pakistan then.” Afridi said India and Pakistan should play each other more frequently.
“It should be like that only,” he said. “Pakistan have always supported India at every step. Despite threats, Pakistan have always toured India. I think cricket can only revive India-Pakistan relations. Sport brings friendship. The way I enjoyed my cricket in India, I never enjoyed anywhere else. We are after all neighbours. The relations should be good between us. Cricket can only help better the relations.” This year’s IPL, like most other editions before it, will not include Pakistan players. “Ask your Indian government,” Afridi said, when his views were sought on this. “Why ask me?”
Afridi will turn 35 during the 2015 World Cup, and will have entered the 19th year of his international career. But the thought of retirement, he said, had not entered his mind yet. “Obviously, the World Cup 2015 is going to be a huge thing for me and my team,” he said. “As long as I’m fit and give my life to cricket, I’ll continue playing the sport. I will sideline myself the moment I start thinking that I’m becoming a burden on my team. I will not give anyone an opportunity to talk.”