x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Shahid Afridi gets silent treatment from New Zealand's Vettori

The New Zealand captain refused to talk about his counterpart yesterday, which is a veiled compliment reserved for only the very best.

Shahid Afridi, left, the Pakistan captain, is in a rich vein of form.
Shahid Afridi, left, the Pakistan captain, is in a rich vein of form.

PALLEKELE, Sri Lanka // Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, must be in a good run of form. Daniel Vettori, his opposite number in the New Zealand side, refused to talk about him yesterday, which is a veiled compliment reserved for only the very best.

"I'm going to steal a line from Andrew Strauss [the England captain] and say that we are not here to talk up the opposition, we are here to get on with our own game," Vettori said.

All he had been asked was what challenge Afridi's bowling poses opposition batsmen. The silent treatment suggests his threat will be significant when the sides meet today at the World Cup.

Before England met India earlier in the competition, Strauss had deflected questions about Sachin Tendulkar's batting for the same reasons.

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Few players would be better placed to judge Afridi's merits than Vettori.

The two players started playing the international game six months apart from each other, with Afridi first to make his bow in October 1996.

Their careers follow similar lines.

Both were teenage prodigies, and both are bowling all-rounders who have been the key figures in their national teams for the majority of the past 14 years.

Rarely in that time has Afridi enjoyed a finer run of form than in this World Cup.

He has taken 14 wickets to pilot his side's rise to the top of the group, and earned two match awards in their three wins so far.

In between the second and third victories Afridi celebrated his 31st birthday, and Misbah-ul-Haq, his deputy, says the rest of his team have been happy spectators.

"The best thing for a team is that the captain performs well, but other players are contributing, too," Misbah said.

"Having your captain playing so well and being the man of the match is a real plus point for our team.

"Everybody else is still focused and everybody else wants to play that role in the team in the coming games, perform well and take responsibility off him."

Afridi became one cricket's biggest draws on account of his pyrotechnic batting, yet he regards himself as a bowler first.

With two five-wicket hauls - and four in the other game - so far, the pitches in Hambantota and Colombo in Sri Lanka suited Pakistan's captain perfectly.

"[Turning pitches] help a bowler like Shahid Afridi because he has a lot of variations, the leg-break, the googly, the faster-one, and he gets it to drift in," Misbah said.

"I think that causes problems because the batsmen does not know what is coming, and he bowls so quickly it makes it really difficult.

"The best thing about his bowling is the aggression. At the moment he is very confident and bowling aggressively, and taking wickets, which is a really positive thing for our team."

Pakistan had the better of New Zealand on their tour there, which preceded the World Cup, yet Vettori has faith in his side.

"We are fortunate we have played a lot against them lately, which means we are pretty familiar with them, but they are familiar with us, too," he said.

"We know what we are coming up against with Pakistan. If we can get it right ourselves, we have more of a chance than worrying about Pakistan."

 

pradley@thenational.ae