LONDON: When he was Pakistan’s captain, one of Shahid Afridi’s greatest ambitions was to win a world title for his country.
He failed to realise that dream after having lead Pakistan to the semifinals of the 2011 World Cup and to a first-round exit from the 2016 World Twenty20 championship.
On Saturday, Afridi hoped that his successor Sarfraz Ahmed will succeed where he failed. Sarfraz, the aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman, will lead Pakistan in a dream final of the ICC Champions Trophy against India on Sunday (today).
“Before I dwell on Pakistan’s strategy for the big match, I want to say that the final has given Sarfraz a God given opportunity of leaving a lasting legacy. The feisty wicket-keeper batsman is still learning the art of captaincy, yet has grown in stature as leader in every game this tournament. My advice to Sarfraz for the final is simple — take all decisions wholeheartedly and without any fear whatsoever,” Afridi wrote in his column on the official ICC website.
“In big games, you need captains to have a clear mind since they are the ones who have to steer the ship. Sarfraz needs to back his own abilities to the hilt since a confused or timid approach can hurt the team and dampen the chances of success.”
Afridi stressed that Pakistan’s senior duo of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez will have to deliver.
“Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez need to come to the party for the big game, both these players have contributed in many wins and Sunday is the time for them to deliver once again on the biggest stage of all.”
Afridi hailed Pakistan’s openers Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman.
“I am heartened by Pakistan’s opening partnership of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali. The two have done a fantastic job for the team at the start of the innings and one more partnership of substance can give the side the required momentum for a possible victory.”
Afridi said that Pakistan will need to strike with the new ball to put India’s much-vaunted batting line-up on the back foot.
“The biggest challenge for Pakistan I believe is combatting the Indian batting line-up. Virat Kohli’s team has already proved its credentials as the best batting unit in the tournament. Its top-order is in great nick and it has a powerful trio of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya in the middle-order.
“The Indian batsmen look unfazed even in a pressure situation, Kohli’s scarcely believable record while chasing is known to all and I believe that Pakistan would have to target taking wickets with the new ball since strikes at the top of the innings are likely to be crucial for the game’s outcome.
“In the matches leading up to the final, middle overs have been the game changers for Pakistan. I feel that the same strategy can be deployed for the final, which means that Sarfraz would have to try and keep the runs dry till that stage of the game, especially if there are no strikes with the two new balls.”
Afridi hoped that today’s match will help in the resumption of Indo-Pak cricketing ties.
“I would also want the cricketing world and the ICC to keep a close eye on the significance of an Indo-Pak cricket match of this magnitude and what it means to the fans of the game all around.
“I really hope that we see resumption of bilateral cricket between the two countries and would request the Indian cricket board and the Indian government to soften their stance.”