Expressing gratitude for support and love from the cricketing fans, prolific all-rounder Shahid Afridi said captaining the national side is not like ‘a walk in the park’.
Afridi, who stepped down as Twenty20 captain after Pakistan’s dismal show in the World Twenty20, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with ICC Cricket 360° yesterday.
“Following the Pakistan media, accepting the challenges and captaining the national side, it’s not like a walk in the park,” said he.
“Even before the ICC World Twenty20 2016, I was thinking that I wasn’t enjoying captaincy and it was putting pressure on me. But then I also thought that, if I leave captaincy at this crucial juncture, I don’t see any other player who can handle this responsibility. And I thought, I’ll build a strong team but we didn’t perform to the expectations of our fans,” the Pakistani star added.
Afridi has scored 1,716 runs and taken 48 wickets in 27 Tests. Making his One-Day International debut in 1996, Afridi amassed 8,046 runs and took 395 wickets in 398 games.
He holds a record of taking most Twenty20 Internationals wickets (97) and has won the most Player of the Match awards (six) in the format.
“The journey has been very long,” said Afridi about his two-decade long career. “Playing for Pakistan and alongside great players like you is like a dream come true,” he told Ramiz Raja.
“It was a big opportunity when I came into international cricket, I was bit nervous of playing with such big stars, but the way the senior players took care of me, like a younger brother, it was very important for me.”
“Never imagined that I would play for Pakistan for so long, but I am, and I achieved quite a lot and played fearless cricket. Although I didn’t perform on some occasions, but whatever I achieved for my country, I would be thankful for the love and support I got.”
“In 2004-05 tour, we toured Australia and it was a dream to face bowlers like Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, and to score against them was really satisfying,” he recalled. “And then 141 against India in a Test match and I scored a century in Kanpur in an important match, so those innings are memorable.”
When asked to comment on the emerging talent in the country, Afridi said the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was a great platform for youngsters keen to make a foray into the national side.
“The first Pakistan Super League was a great boost for Pakistan cricketers financially, and in terms of exposure as well,” said Afridi. “The talent is definitely there but we have to search and that will happen from academies. So proper we need to build proper academies in each city and the talented kids can use the facilities. Right now, the boys only learn once they get selected into the national team. For example, proper training, diving skills, etc. All these things you learn at U16 and U19 level in the academies.”
Afridi said he was looking forward to playing as professional in the foreseeable future and wanted to set up his cricket academy as well. “I will continue to play cricket for my leagues,” he said. “I’ve signed with Hampshire county and will play that as well. PSL is also happening, and apart from that if I get any good opportunity I will take it. Also I would like to carry on with my charity work for my Shahid Afridi foundation and have an ambition to set up a proper academy.”