SYDNEY: Australia great Ricky Ponting has declared speedster Shaheen Afridi as the player that must fire if Pakistan are to claim a second ICC Men’s T20 World Cup title in Australia.
Afridi produced his best performance of the tournament so far when he bowled with supreme pace and collected superb figures of 4/22 against Bangladesh on Sunday and that spell helped Pakistan earn the final spot in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Pakistan have a meeting against an in-form New Zealand awaiting them at the SCG on Wednesday and Ponting said Afridi is the key player in that contest.
“He might say that he’s not back to 100 percent just yet, but from what I’ve seen it looks like he’s going along beautifully and he now holds the key for Pakistan progressing in the tournament,” Ponting said.
Afridi hurt his right knee while fielding during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in July and the 22-year-old admitted his recovery was slow as he could barely walk following the injury.
There may have been some doubts raised about Afrdi’s swift return when he went wicketless during Pakistan’s opening two games of the tournament against India and Zimbabwe, but Ponting always had faith the left-armer would come good.
“(I never had any doubt) as you just know what he’s capable of when he’s out there on the field,” Ponting said.
“And as I said, even if he’s not at 100 percent, if he’s operating at 90 percent, he’s still going to have more of an impact on games than most because of how good he is.
“So look, he might have had a few worries in the back of his own mind and the Pakistan hierarchy and coaching group might have had a few worries in their mind, but not anymore.
“He’s got through really well so far and hopefully for them two more games to go.”
Ponting compared Afridi’s return to form to the way India superstar Virat Kohli had sprung to life in Australia and indicated sometimes you just need to put your faith in the champion players to produce on the big stage. “It’s almost a bit like the India scenario with Virat (Kohli) coming into this tournament,” Ponting noted.
“Sometimes you just have to stick with them and pick them and let them go because champion players will find a way to get the job done. “And as the tournament’s gone on he (Afridi) has got better and better and hopefully the best is still to come.”