Due to a bad back pain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was conspicuous by his absence as, yesterday, the Indian team arrived for training in Fatullah, Dhaka, regarding #IndvsPak.
On the other hand, Shahid Afridi, who came with the Pakistan team, bowled along spell in the nets, before having a short batting stint towards the end. Just like Dhoni, even Afridi has been a hugely influential figure in the limited overs match.
The Asia Cup fixture between the arch-rivals would be a tale of two captains as well. Both are at the back end of their illustrious careers.
2 years back, Afridi won the game single-handedly for Pakistan, in the Asia Cup, clobbering two straight sixes off R Ashwin in the final over.
Afridi’s batting prowess has diminished since. Between March 2, 2014 and February 26, 2016, he has scored 269 runs at 15.82 in 20 limited overs internationals. But he has taken 18 wickets at 29.55. However, the overall stats hardly matter in the shortest format though.
Current form counts and Afridi doesn’t fare well on that scale either. Last month, in three T20s in New Zealand, he could score 38 runs. However, his strike-rate was a staggering 200.00.
Then, playing for Peshawar Zalmi in the inaugural Pakistan Super League, he scored 87 runs in 10 games; once again at a very impressive strike-rate of 158.18. Afridi still can do good batting, but the question is can he be the a game-changer?
Afridi is pragmatic enough to accept a role reversal - from a marauding batsman to the leader of the spin-bowling pack.
“My main strength now is bowling. But where I bat I can also contribute to the team and that is important. Whether it is 20 or 30 runs but it is important,” he said.
Speaking about Pakistan’s earlier T20 record against India, Afridi said, “I am not thinking what we have done against India in the past. For, I don’t live in the past. We want to play the game according to our team plan.”
Coming to Dhoni, he is short of batting time as he has been in fabulous form. Moreover, on a couple of occasions, when Hardik Pandya was promoted to do pinch-hitting, he lived up to the challenge.
Dhoni in the team’s Asia Cup opener against Bangladesh, has got only two balls to flex his muscles and remained not out on 8. Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Amir’s bowlings from Pakistan pose a bigger threat.
Afridi and Dhoni are two completely different types of cricketers but the ability to hit the ball hard provides a common thread. Also, both have been immense for their respective teams - larger than life figures. Little wonder then that ahead of the match Rohit Sharma doffed his hat.
Speaking about the abilities of Dhoni and Afridi, Rohit Sharma said, “Both of them have been great for their respective countries, they have served their nation with distinction. They have done wonders for their countries. I wish them all the best.”
On the other side, former Pakistan captain and team manager, Intikhab Alam took on about Afridi saying, “Shahid Afridi is a tremendous cricketer and over the years he has served Pakistan cricket tremendously. There’s still a lot of cricket left in him and we expect a great deal from him. Coming to Dhoni, the way he has performed for India says it all. You just have to stand and applaud. You don’t get such a cricketer every day.”
Both Dhoni and Afridi, in all likelihood, are playing their last Asia Cup, but taking a cue from the India captain, Afridi, too, is choosing to be noncommittal.
“I think for me the Asia Cup and the World Cup is more important than my retirement and I am focusing on that at the moment,” he said.
Not many moons ago, Dhoni had teased a reporter for asking him a retirement-related question. When Dhoni was once asked by a reporter, about the captain’s retirement, he said, “The answer remains the same, it is like what is your name - ‘MS Dhoni’ and it will remain the same for a considerable period of time unless you give me a new thing.”
The consequences, however, cannot be anticipated, but for the moment, both captains would be in pursuit to cancel each other. Bilateral series Meanwhile, Afridi batted for the resumption of bilateral cricket ties between the two neighbours.
“Sports can always develop good relationship between countries. It not a time for people to fight and run rather they want entertainment now. I think the Pakistani people want to see the Indians in Pakistan, while the Indians would also like to see the Pakistani players playing over there. We should not give sports a political colour. We should consider the public demands and always try to give this message. Our government always took the first step in this regard.”
By Phani Ch