Pakistan's one-day cricket captain Shahid Afridi vowed to put aside a raging betting scandal allegedly involving three of his key players and lead his side from the front in the series against England in Cardiff from Sunday.
Afridi said on Thursday that his team was going through a tough time because of ‘spot-fixing' allegations against some fellow team-mates but was quick to add that his players would overcome all odds and give their best in the series.
"These are tough times for us, there is no doubt about it," said Afridi, who is hoping that allegations against Pakistani players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir of involvement in a betting scam will prove wrong.
"It has hurt us all and we are hoping that the controversy will end soon," he said.
The tainted trio missed a practice game against Somerset in Taunton as they are in London for a crucial meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and International Cricket Council (ICC) officials and senior diplomats.
Afridi, 30, said their possible axing will be a huge setback for his team.
"Salman, Amir and Asif are three of our key players," Afridi said.
"Already it was a tough assignment because England are a very strong team. It would become even more difficult for us if we are forced to play without them," he stressed.
But Afridi was quick to add that his players have the ability to put the scandal behind them and give their best in the series.
"The boys are real fighters. They've been under immense pressure over the last few days but we are regrouping pretty fast and are aiming to shine in the forthcoming series in spite of all odds," he said.
"Our main task is to shift our focus completely on the upcoming one-day series. We are doing that and I'm confident that the boys will be fully ready ahead of the series," he said.
Afridi said he and his boys want to play good cricket in order to put the team in the headlines for all the right reasons.
"It's our aim to place our team and cricket itself in the limelight for all the right reasons," he said. "We know that we can do that by playing good cricket. We have to play good cricket for the team, for our compatriots back home and for the crowds who will come to venues to watch the matches," he added.
Pakistan pick up much needed win
Taunton: Putting the fixing scandal behind them, Pakistan put up an inspired show to beat Somerset by eight runs in a warm-up match on Thursday. Thanks to a century by Shahzaib Hasan (105) and 97 by Fawad Alam, Pakistan set a stiff 265-run target for the hosts. Somerset, in reply, lost an early wicket but Zander de Bruyn, along with Nick Compton (50), kept them on the track. Bruyn anchored the innings with a fine century (122 n.o.), but the lack of support from the other end saw the chase stifled just short of the target.
Pakistan: 264 all out in 47.3 overs (S.Hasan 105, F.Alam 97, Gregory 4/49, Turner 3/52); Somerset: 256 for 9 (de Bruyn 122 n.o., Compton 50, Ajmal 3/40).