Colombo: Shahid Afridi was one of the marquee players at the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League but had to leave midway because of personal issues. Before leaving Sri Lanka, he spoke to Wisden India about dealing with expectations, not doing enough as a batsman, as well as the possible resumption of bilateral cricket with India. Excerpts:
You are one of the most popular cricketers around. How do you manage the expectations of your fans?
The only thing I can do is work hard. I try to use the practice sessions to full effect. I make sure that I do not waste my time. I know that people are watching the SLPL back home in Pakistan as well, and it was important for me to do well. I am clear that this tournament is a good preparation for me for the upcoming series against Australia and the World Twenty20. Therefore, I took every game seriously. I know whenever I go out people want me to score runs or pick wickets, and I am trying my level best to do that.
The local cricketers must have been inspired by your presence in the dressing room...
Not only me, the local guys are learning a lot from all the overseas cricketers who are at the SLPL. That is one of the primary objectives of the league. If they can grab the chance and show what they can do, then nothing like it.
You were a bowler first and then a batsman but, despite that, do you think you could have done more as a batsman?
That is true. I have not worked hard on my batting. In the last three or four years, I was just focussing on my bowling. Of late, I have started to take my batting seriously again because I understand the importance of my role in the Pakistan line-up. I am working hard on that.
As a spinner, you generate a lot of speed in your deliveries...
Cricket has become very modern now. You need some variations in your bowling to do well, and I keep learning from my past performances. I try to experiment in the nets, and once I am confident about my new deliveries, I use them in matches.
The Pakistan tour of India in December will be another new beginning for bilateral cricket between the two countries, won't it?
Indeed, it is a great thing for cricket. It will be much better if India agree to come to Pakistan. But something is better than nothing. We should play together and look after our neighbours. Sport has always brought the two countries closer. I am also looking forward for the Champions League, and hopefully the Indian Premier League also.