LAHORE - Pakistan Twenty20 skipper M Hafeez hopes Shahid Afridi will be fit in time for the World Twenty20 after the hard-hitting all-rounder delayed his departure to Bangladesh.
Afridi played in the Asia Cup final on Saturday with painkillers after he hurt his hamstring with some powerful late hitting during two nail-biting victories against India and Bangladesh last week. "As a captain, I need a fit Afridi, and that's why we have given him time to rehab," Hafeez said while speaking at the press conference held here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.
Pakistan leaves for Dhaka on Thursday, and manager Zakir Khan said they hoped Afridi could join the team on Monday, meaning the all-rounder would miss the warm-up match against New Zealand.
Afridi's fitness could be tested in the second warm-up game against South Africa next Wednesday before the 2009 winners' first group match against India two days later. Afridi is the most capped T20 player with 70 matches, bagging 73 wickets with his leg spin bowling and scoring 1,044 runs at an impressive strike rate of 143.01.
Hafeez said fitness was one of the key issues with the team because it had been playing international cricket nonstop for five months. "When you play back-to-back matches, the fitness of individuals counts a lot," Hafeez said. "Fitness is the problem of the Pakistan team, but it needs to be improved at the grassroots level."
Pakistan has never won a match against India in an ICC tournament, including a loss in the inaugural World T20 final in South Africa in 2007. But the recent victory against India in the Asia Cup has raised the hopes of Hafeez, despite the fact India will be strengthened with the return of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, who all missed the Asia Cup. "The Pakistan-India match is always a pressure match. As a player and as a captain, I am very happy that our first match is against India, and from there, hopefully, we will get a good takeoff in the tournament.” "Wherever you play against India, you have pressure from the media and your nation, but we will try to have a good start and build a good momentum," he added.
To a query regarding his own preparation for World T20 matches, Hafeez replied: “I have been working very hard to prepare myself well for the mega event and by the grace of God, I am fully fit and ready to deliver for my team. You will see me performing as an all-rounder.”
Australia, defending champion West Indies, and a qualifier are also in Pakistan's group. The green shirts are one of the most successful teams in the World T20 after winning the title in 2009 in England, reaching one other final, and two semi-finals.
Meanwhile, the team’s shirt for the ICC T20 World Cup 2014 was also unveiled after the press briefing. The sponsor along with T20 captain Hafeez unveiled the green shirt.