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Shahid Afridi is our game-changer: Pak chief selector Moin Khan

Pak chief selector Moin Khan confident big-hitting Afridi will come good in high-voltage tie vs India

Ashwin FerroAdelaide: Moin Khan knows a thing or two about India-Pakistan cricket World Cup history. After all, he has twice been part of the Pakistani side in their five defeats against India in the quadrennial tournament. In the first of those encounter, Moin, under the leadership of Imran Khan, also became World Champion.

“The pressure is intense,” said the 43-year-old former wicketkeeper-batsman, but cometh the hour, cometh the man, and the Pakistan Cricket Board’s chief selector is throwing all his weight behind the team’s most seasoned campaigner Shahid Afridi, for Sunday’s thriller against India at the Adelaide Oval.

Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi during the warm-up match against England at Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.  PIC/Getty Images
Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi during the warm-up match against England at Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday. Pic/Getty Images

In his fifth World Cup, Afridi is easily the most experienced campaigner for his country here. The thirty-five-year-old Pathan is just 52 runs away from 8000 ODI runs, and needs only seven wickets to reach an amazing 400 scalps in the 50-over format. That he will easily achieve Down Under, but the India match is what should kickstart Afridi’s antics, felt Moin. “Shahid is definitely our game-changer. He is playing in his last World Cup (Afridi announced his retirement after the tournament sometime back) and that’s the reason he’s been giving his 100 per cent. If you look at his performance in our two warm-ups, it shows that he is going all out and that’s what we expect from him always. He is 100 per cent fit and is batting and bowling well too,” Moin told mid-day here yesterday during the Pakistan team’s first practice session at the Adelaide Oval since their arrival in South Australia on Thursday.

Moin Khan
Pakistan chief selector Moin Khan during the team’s practice session at the Adelaide Oval yesterday. Pic/Ashwin Ferro

Afridi did nothing significant in the two warm-up matches recently — he took one wicket, scoring 24 and eight not out respectively as Pakistan first beat Bangladesh by three wickets on February 9, and then stunned England by four wickets on February 11, both in Sydney, to become the only team besides Australia to win both their warm-up matches. But more importantly, he bowled the full quota of 10 overs in both games and wasn’t required to bat much in the second game, which means he’ll be raring to go on Sunday.

Moin couldn’t agree more. “Shahid is definitely raring to go. He has his own methods of preparation and has been doing so on his own. He is experienced enough to do that and we are relying on his experience. I’m sure he will deliver the goods for us,” said Moin, before sending out a warning to Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co: “This new Pakistan team has it in them to change history (in obvious reference to Pakistan having lost five out of five times to India in previous World Cups).

“Don’t forget, the last time we met in a World Cup, it was in India and you enjoyed all the crowd support, but here it will be a balanced audience, so it’s anybody’s game.”

Afridi meanwhile, trained with the team at the indoor nets for about an hour before heading back into the changing room, away from the rest of the team, the waiting media contingent and handful of fans. He didn’t emerge for the rest of the training session, probably chalking out last-minute plans for the neighbourhood nation.

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