x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Malik hails Afridi as 'best guy'

Troubled all-rounder Shahid Afridi is the one man who can unite Pakistan, and should be made their permanent captain, according to incumbent Shoaib Malik.

DUBAI // Troubled all-rounder Shahid Afridi is the one man who can unite Pakistan, and should be made their permanent captain, according to present incumbent Shoaib Malik. Malik will lead the Pakistanis in two Twenty20 internationals at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium against England this weekend, starting today at 6pm. However, he has been keen to admit he is an unwilling leader, and is looking forward to the day he can hand back the role.

Afridi will miss the first match against England this evening as he serves the second of a two-match ban for biting the ball in a match with Australia. Even though Afridi is likely to be restored to the line-up for tomorrow's encounter, Malik will retain the captaincy. "All of us like challenges," said Malik. "Captaincy is something different. I think Shahid Afridi has the ability to gel the boys together. We have been playing together for the past 11 years, and in my opinion he is the best guy for the captaincy."

England beat Pakistan when they last met in this format, in the group stage at last summer's World Twenty20, only for Younus Khan's side to go on to lift the title. Despite that success, as well as the typically chaotic build up which has waylaid their opponents, the England captain, Paul Collingwood, thinks Pakistan should be considered favourites here. "We certainly go into the game as underdogs," said the Durham batsman. "Pakistan have been a well-drilled Twenty20 unit over the last few years.

"They have some record and we are going to have to play to the best of our ability to beat them. We believe we have the skills, we believe we have the players, and we are improving all the time as a Twenty20 and a one-day side. If we play well on our day we can beat anyone." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae