After a disappointing start to the tournament, the Men in Green finally found momentum and defeated the Netherlands, South Africa and Zimbabwe to qualify for the semi-finals of the 20-20 World Cup 2022. Even though their openers have failed to live up to the expectations, the middle order stunned the opponents as they were atrocious coming to the tournament.
Now, coming to their bowling, the entire nation was worried about Shaheen Shah Afridi’s fitness ahead of the tournament. The left-arm seamer missed the Asia Cup 2022 in the summer and did not play a single international match leading up to their clash against India. Thus, his form and fitness was a major concern, and it increased when the speedster failed to deliver in the initial matches.
Many former cricketers including Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis also believed that Pakistan management rushed him onto the field before he could recover completely. But the left-arm pacer silenced his critics with his impressive performances in Pakistan’s final two matches of the Super 12. This also drew plaudits from former Australia international, Ricky Ponting, who believes the speedster to be Pakistan’s most lethal weapon in the knockout stages of the ongoing World Cup.
Ponting compares Afridi’s return with Virat Kohli’s
“He might say that he’s not back to 100 per cent just yet, but from what I’ve seen it looks like he’s going along beautifully and he now holds the key for Pakistan progressing in the tournament. (I never had any doubt) as you just know what he’s capable of when he’s out there on the field. Ponting said. And as I said, even if he’s not at 100 per cent, if he’s operating at 90 per cent, he’s still going to have more of an impact on games than most because of how good he is,” Ponting was quoted as saying in the Cricket governing body’s official website.
Just like Virat Kohli in the past, Afridi too was going through a lean patch which was criticised by a lot of experts. However, Ricky Ponting believes that the team management has done well by showing their faith in the 22-year-old.
“It’s almost a bit like the India scenario with Virat [Kohli] coming into this tournament. Sometimes you just have to stick with them and pick them and let them go because champion players will find a way to get the job done. And as the tournament’s gone on he (Afridi) has got better and better and hopefully the best is still to come,” Ponting added.