Pakistan Focus On Shaheen Afridi Revival At Nets; Usama Mir May Replace Shadab Khan vs Australia
Pakistan will take on Australia in their next ODI World Cup 2023 match on Friday in Bengaluru
- Press Trust of India
- Updated: October 18, 2023 07:55 PM IST
Pakistan players trooped into the Chinnaswamy Stadium on a clement Wednesday afternoon, looking every inch unhurried and talking boisterously to each other, except one. Shaheen Shah Afridi was all business and walked to the centre straightaway in the company of bowling coach Morne Morkel. Pakistan camp might have heaved a sigh of relief to see that as the strapping left-arm pacer did not show any signs of a draining fever that had gripped the team upon its arrival in the City, while engaging himself fully in the ensuing net session.
Afridi took a good look at the pitch which sported a tinge of green before starting the day's proceedings with stretching and some assorted warm-up drills.
Soon, the 23-year-old shifted himself to the centre nets and started bowling with short run-ups as Morkel watched him from up close.
As the session progressed, Afridi stepped up on the pace and troubled the right-handed batters with those sharp, incoming deliveries.
Later, he tried his hand in batting as well, facing his teammates and a few throwdowns from the sidearm specialist.
But the whole exercise holds a deeper meaning for Pakistan as in the absence of injured Naseem Shah, Afridi is expected to shoulder the team's attack in the World Cup.
However, he was not delivered yet on the expected lines. Afridi has taken four wickets from three matches and his economy rate of 6.31 is the second worst among Pakistan bowlers behind leg-spinner Shadab Khan, 6.55.
His average for the tournament stands at 34.75, and both those stats are significantly higher than his career numbers - 5.51 and 23.87.
Not so long ago, Afridi was a fearsome presence with the new ball, inflicting some serious damage in the Powerplay segment to rob opposition teams of early momentum.
But in this tournament, Afridi looked a far cry from that furious avatar of him. Along with his reduced efficiency, the Pakistan management will be even more concerned with the sharp dip in Afridi's pace.
A bowler capable of touching close to 150 clicks, Afridi has crossed the 140-mark only intermittently in this World Cup, as batsmen tackled him with consummate ease on the slower Indian pitches.
The match against India at Ahmedabad was a case in point for that. Rohit Sharma flicked and pulled Afridi for fours and sixes, and Virat Kohli unfurled a delectable cover drive while leaning on his front foot, and those were the shots a fast bowler would loath to see being played against him.
But here Afridi was left with no real answers as his first four overs went for 32 runs and the wicket of Shubman Gill would hardly have been of any solace.
"His problem seems more in the mind than with his skills. The ability will not go away after one match or two. Perhaps, he is over-trying things, maybe the absence of Naseem (Shah) has hit him a bit, with whom he has good new ball partnership.
"He should just relax and not think about his role and external things like that. Focus just on bowling, and I think he will be alright," tells Waqas Ahmed, bowling coach of Afridi's PSL team Lahore Qalandars.
Pakistan will hope that Afridi will slip into his best on Friday against Australia, and that will be imperative for them after a pasting by India.
Mir for Shadab?
Apart from Afridi, Pakistan will also be concerned with the form of Shadab, who plucked just two wickets from three matches while leaking runs aplenty.
The underwhelming Shahdab is a big reason for Pakistan's failure to exercise control over rivals in the middle-overs.
In that context, they might just think of giving a chance to Usama Mir, the 27-year-old leg-spinner from Sialkot.
Mir, who recovered completely from the fever, has played eight ODIs and has taken 11 wickets so far.
Meanwhile, all the Pakistan players save reserve wicketkeeper Mohamad Haris attended the day's practice session.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)