Sunday, 13 March 2011

"Both Akmals will play" Afridi

Shahid Afridi looked to play down speculation sweeping around the Pakistani media over the Akmal brothers, insisted both would play against Zimbabwe.

With Kamran dropping two crucial catches behind the stumps in the 110-run defeat to New Zealand on Tuesday, coverage of the Pakistan side has involved little else over the past few days.

The only possible wicketkeeping replacement is younger brother Umar Akmal, and when he suffered an injury scare in training on Friday when he was said to have hurt a finger, one media report went so far as to claim that a conspiracy was involved, suggesting Umar was playing up so that his brother wouldn't be dropped.

Such speculation has been denied by the team management, and although Umar sprained his right ankle playing football in a warm-up on Sunday Afridi insisted that the injury isn't serious and he expects both Akmal brothers to take their place in the side on Monday.

"He (Umar) is fit, it is a light injury. He fielded today and looked better, so definitely he will play tomorrow," Afridi said of Umar.

Nevertheless there is no escaping the wicketkeeping ineptitude of Kamran, but like coach Waqar Younis pointed out after the loss to New Zealand, Pakistan have little choice but to back the struggling player.

"Kamran's performance in batting hasn't been bad but, yes, he is struggling with his keeping. He is working very hard, and we haven't got such an option in the squad to whom we can give a chance in this tournament," Afridi said on Sunday.

"Kamran has been working hard for four days. He has support and our confidence, he seems a better choice. I think he knows the mistakes he has committed and he will try to cover it for sure and will perform."

Another cause for concern has been the batting after the top order were swung out cheaply by the Kiwi fast bowlers.

Pakistan crashed to 23 for four, giving them no chance of chasing down New Zealand's hefty total of 302 for seven despite Pallekele offering up a good batting wicket.

A win over Zimbabwe would guarantee Pakistan a spot in the last eight, and the skipper maintained that the best way for his batsmen to succeed would be to play their natural game.

"At the moment our plan is not to lose wickets and be positive. I have already told them to play to your strengths, like you play in domestic cricket, play like that," said Afridi.

"Over the last couple of days the openers have worked really hard and the coaches have worked hard with them as well. The results will hopefully come and realising the importance of the match I am confident that they will perform."

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