KARACHI // Shoaib Malik is already looking forward to righting the wrongs of Pakistan's Asia Cup campaign at the ICC Champions Trophy in September. The Asia Cup was a tumultuous competition for Malik in particular. When the captain was not struggling on the field, he was attached to a drip for much of the time after suffering from severe bouts of dehydration.
His brave effort to play on despite his travails, failed to earn him much sympathy from his critics. His captaincy was roundly castigated, but he ended the tournament with a vote of confidence from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Nasim Ashraf. Amid the furore, Pakistan exited their home competition without reaching the final, but they did win their final two matches against India and Bangladesh.
Those victories were based on promising performances by young players like Nasir Jamshed and Abdur Rauf, and Malik believes the future looks bright. He says: "This is life. We made a few mistakes in the game against Sri Lanka, which really cost us. But we are fighting hard and now we are looking forward to the Champions Trophy. "The young players who have come in are all very good. At least we have some competition for places now. We will go into a training camp now and be ready for the Champions Trophy."
Shahid Afridi was so embarrassed by his performances in the Asia Cup that he cried and begged to be dropped, according to Ashraf. The erratic all-rounder suffered a barrage of criticism for his first-ball duck against Sri Lanka, which all but sealed their defeat. Afridi has often been condemned for the lack of thought he applies to his batting, but his dismissal - caught at long-off after slogging the first ball he received from Sanath Jayasuriya - was particularly rash.
However, he survived the cut for the next game against India, but only because the captain and the side's only other all-rounder, Malik, was dehydrated. Despite the criticism, the PCB chief backed Afridi saying he had faith in his commitment. "I know personally the players are very committed," says Ashraf. "I can tell you that after the loss to Sri Lanka, I saw Shahid Afridi crying in the dressing room and wanting to be dropped from the team because he had not performed well.
"I saw Malik on drips and with cold packs on his body. Yet he went out and played in that match. "I feel sorry when some people in such circumstances question the commitment of some players. I have told them to give 100 per cent and even if they lose that is alright, but they must give their best effort." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org