Despite picking 14 wickets in the World Cup thus far, Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi is modesty personified by crediting bowling conditions for his success, writes Bikash Mohapatra.It’s been a start any team would be proud of.And when the team involved is Pakistan — with all the controversies and off-the-field issues — then the magnitude of pride increases by leaps and bounds.Keeping all the turmoil, in the not-so-distance past, behind them Pakistan has made a wonderful start to their World Cup campaign, winning all three of their opening games.- Sparkling Afridi can’t hide Pakistan defects And leading them from the front is none other than their captain — Shahid Afridi.The 31-year-old, who celebrated his birthday during the tournament (on March 1st), may have contributed just 43 runs in his three innings but has more than made up for it with a resounding bowling effort.In fact Afridi, the batsman, has been going through some poor run of form ever since his two centuries in three matches at the Rangiri Dambulla in June 2010. The Pakistani captain has managed only 403 runs in his 19 matches since, with only a solitary innings — a magnificent 65 against New Zealand at Christchurch earlier in the year.
However, Afridi, the bowler, has been consistent during the period and suffice to say has come of age during this World Cup.The Pakistani captain’s figures of five for 16 against Zimbabwe in his team’s opening match was followed by an equally impressive four for 34 in the shock win over Sri Lanka.Afridi then took five for 23 against Canada, giving him a total of 14 wickets in three match-winning efforts and leaving the other eminent bowlers in his side far behind. Asked the reason for his success as a bowler, the 31-year-old was at his modest best.- Images: Afridi stars as Pak survive Canada scare “Conditions in the tournament are perfect for spinners,” he reasoned, adding, “If the fast bowlers pitch it in the right area, it’s good for fast bowlers also.”The captain said he had neither made any technical changes to his bowling nor was trying anything different.”I’m just bowling wicket to wicket,” he explained, adding, “Sometimes the ball will turn and the other times it will skid, giving you a chance for leg-befores.”I try and keep it simple and wait for the right opportunity.”
Asked why his other bowlers weren’t being as successful, Afridi was back to his diplomatic tone.”I always try to do what I know best and that is play well,” he said, adding, “The coaches are working very hard with the other bowlers and the latter are really putting in the effort.”We get a wicket whenever we need one. So, there is no need to complain.” Typical case of a captain defending his team. Asked if he enjoyed his role as the leader, Afridi was more forthcoming.”I don’t think I appear very cool to people who observe me on the ground,” he said, before going on to make an elaborate explanation.”You have to keep running around and look for ways to inspire the team,” explained Afridi, adding, “If the captain stands still and looks clueless, then it spreads to the whole team.”So I always try and back the team. I myself enjoy being charged up.”But it’s not about one guy, it’s also about the other 10. When all 11 members of the team are charged up, it’s a good feeling.”
So what does the captain think about his team’s chances against New Zealand in Pallekele on Tuesday?”That — the one-day series win in New Zealand — is the past and just a series,” said Afridi.- World Cup coverage”This is a World Cup game and everyone would have prepared hard for this tournament.”The match against Canada was a serious wake-up call for us. So I would say whichever team plays well on the day will win,” he added.If Pakistan do play well, they will ensure themselves and their captain a fourth straight win. Maybe Afridi again will be the one who ensures the same.