Kolkata: Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez yesterday said skipper Shahid Afridi showed a lot of character in the way he battled severe criticism back home to guide his team to a comprehensive win over Bangladesh in the ICC World Twenty20 here.
Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez (L) is watched by captain Shahid Afridi as he celebrates after scoring a half-century (50 runs)during the World T20 cricket tournament match between Pakistan and Bangladesh at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata. Pic/AFP
Stung by criticism for his "we get more love in India than in Pakistan" comment, Afridi led by example blasting 49 off only 19 balls, and then picked up two wickets at the Eden Gardens as they won by 55 runs.
"To be honest, it's great to see someone who was under pressure from the media and people and to come up with something like this shows the kind of character he got," Hafeez said referring to Afridi at the post-match news conference.
Afridi's "love for India" statement in the pre-tournament news conference did not go well with the fans back home and Pakistani great Javed Miandad rebuked the skipper saying "shame on you" and a legal notice too was served on the star allrounder.
"He was under pressure as a player because of his performances and fans were unhappy for a long time. But he always comes up with such performances and brings smile back on his fans and contribute in team's wins," Hafeez, who himself scored a half-century, said about his captain.
"It's always pleasing to see him to come up and play shots everywhere. The fans love it, we love it as a team. We know that he can take the game away from the opposition. It's great to see him come back into the form with the bat and ball also."
Up against India on March 19 in the most sought-after WT20 match of the tournament, Pakistan would hope to carry forward their winning momentum, he said.
"That performance will boost his confidence and the whole team will definitely follow the momentum he has set in the first match."
Asked about Afridi's promotion to no 4, he said: "I was in the middle and not aware as to whose decision it was. But it was a good decision to promote himself. We needed someone to maintain the momentum."
Hafeez said they are living with the tag of 'unpredictable' since 1992 when they won the World Cup.
"We should always think for the best. Pakistan team have always been unpredictable. This is the biggest tag that is with us since winning 1992 World Cup. We won the World Cup after all. We think we all love this tag and would like to play with that. Hopefully, our batting clicks and bowling gives us the support and we keep winning.
"It was an important game. We came late here but we played a good game and got the confidence back. This was a start we wanted to do well as a team. really happy to do well for the team."
Hafeez said the Asia Cup was history now. "But coming into this tournament we all knew how important this tournament was. We have all the ingredients in our batting. The variety in our bowling makes us lethal.
"We have got our confidence back in the last two matches. Those who were not able to perform are back among runs. It will really help us in the long run.
"Afridi's innings was very important. It gave us a base. Overall it was a good display of team. Bowling did well also. The winning momentum is back and will help us for the rest of the tournament."
Lavishing praise on Mohammad Amir, who has returned after his spot-fixing ban, he said: "He has started his career very well from New Zealand and is improving day by day.
"He delivers when he is given the job. We have a good variety working for the team and that's working. It was a good game but still we need to well very well in the tournament to reach final."
Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza said they could have fancied their chances had they restricted Pakistan to 160-170. "Against the Pakistani bowling attack, this was a big target. On this wicket we could have fancied our chances if the target was 160-170.
"The score gave us huge pressure. We couldn't execute our plans. I won't blame the batsmen when you chase 200-plus against Pakistani attack."
Giving an update on their star left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman, he said: "He's very close to be named in the XI but could not make it at last minute. "We did not want to risk him. At this point, he's the best bowler we have got. We want him to be fit and play.
Unfortunately, could not get him. Hope he will play our next match (against Australia in Bangalore March 21)." Mortaza further said they are looking at one match at a
"We're not thinking too far and focusing on each match. We will try our best in the next match. It will be flatter and the challenges would be tougher. We have to regroup quickly and come back strong. Every match will be tough in this group."