Even before Pakistan have been knocked out of the ICC World Twenty20, skipper Shahid Afridi has switched into damage control mode. Typically, if Pakistan exit a major event early, a scapegoat has to be found, and with coach Waqar Younis enjoying the cushion of a long-term contract, Afridi was the obvious choice.
But the dasher fired the first salvo, suggesting that he was not happy with the team that was forced on him and that the selectors need to do some introspection. “This is the team that the selectors have given to me, for me those were the best 15 guys I had,” said Afridi. “I also expected them to do well but at this point of time I don't want to criticise any of the players in particular. Our fielding was bad and that let us down.”
While not singling out any individual, Afridi did hint that there was a problem of quality in the squad. “The players are trying their best but I can't explain why the team is not winning. Maybe, the new boys in the team lack the mental strength,” said Afridi. “The team is coming through difficult times, but to do well in T20, we need to take some good T20 players in the side.”
Afridi was especially critical of the fact that the captain was not involved when the squad was selected. “This is the team the selectors gave me. First they announced the team and then they announced the captain,” said Afridi. “Inshallalh may be in the future this will all change.”
Pakistan's selectors have not had an easy ride in the last few years, with regime changes bringing about sackings of individuals and occasionally whole committees. Afridi hoped that a similar change at this stage would help matters. “Domestic structure for any country is important because that is where you will get a pool of players. Even the PCB is aware of this and is working on that front.”
Afridi, however, dead-batted a question on Intikhab Alam’s statement that some of the players were “mentally retarded”. All Afridi would say was, “I didn't hear anything of that sort, so I can’t comment. When I hear it, I’ll tell you my version.”