The Pakistan Cricket Board and its medical panel are facing a host of questions as to whether leading fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi has recovered enough from a knee injury to be match fit for the ongoing T20 World Championship. Former fast bowling greats Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, former captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Lahore Qalanders head coach Aaqib Javed all felt that Shaheen was not looking for match fitness and training while playing against India on Sunday in Melbourne.
“This was not the Shaheen we know. His rhythm wasn’t there and it begs the question, was he plucked too early and is he now match fit for such a big tournament?” Waqar wondered.
Shaheen, who suffered a knee injury while fielding the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in mid-July, went to the crucial game against India on Sunday after throwing just 6 overs in two warm-up games in Brisbane.
The former Pakistan captain and head coach said when the team was in New Zealand for the World Cup tri-series, he had spoken to Babar Azam, Saqlain Mushtaq and the team doctor about Shaheen’s condition.
“I asked them about his progress and reminded them how much he threw in the nets, but playing in a World Cup game was a completely different situation,” Waqar said.
“I asked them if his rehabilitation was going well, so why not try him out in the tri-series instead of waiting for the World Cup.” Akram also agreed, saying that Shaheen fell short in match practice against India.
“He didn’t seem to have that zipper in his bowling alley. That’s understandable, because any fast bowler returning from a knee injury is initially concerned about going all out. Let’s see how fast he gets to full competition fitness,” he said.
Aaqib, who has worked closely with Shaheen on the Lahore Qalanders franchise, said there was no doubt that Shaheen was not his usual self against India.
“He looked anxious and reluctant to really arch his back and that’s normal when you come back from a knee injury. I just wonder if he’s rushed back into competitive cricket early on,” said the former Test bowler.
Shaheen, who has been Pakistan’s deadliest bowler for the past two years, scored 25 runs in his last two overs against India and conceded 19 runs in his last over to give India a chance to win Sunday’s exciting game.
Long-serving Pakistan captain Misbah said he had always believed in drafting a player who was 100 per cent match fit. “It’s never worth the risk to gamble with a bowler who has little match training,” he added.
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