Dubai: There can be no Asia Cup if India and Pakistan don’t feature in it, according to Pakistan’s charismatic former all-rounder Shahid Afridi.
The upcoming edition of the event, scheduled in Pakistan in September, is thrown into some uncertainty with India expectedly refusing to play in Pakistan.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview, Afridi said: “The Asia Cup should be held with both India and Pakistan in it. It’s time Pakistan and India sat together and sorted out their problems without involving any third country. They have many issues and once they sit together, it can be sorted but Asia Cup held anywhere should have India and Pakistan playing in the event.”
Afridi, who was here as special invitee for the final of the Expo 2020 Dubai Cricket tournament for the workforce building the Expo 2020 facilities, is an extrovert and enjoys mingling with the expatriates who have always turned up to cheer for him. “Dubai is like a second home for me. I played lot of cricket here. People from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan all live here and they support the game in a big way. This is where we see the example of how much people of India and Pakistan love and respect each other.”
Afridi and Yuvraj Singh, who were the guests of Expo 2020, were at hand as the Laing O’Rourke team defeated CoEX Project Team in the final of the third annual Expo 2020 Dubai cricket tournament at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday.
The cricketers mixed freely with the spectators and players as over 12,000 spectators watched the final.
Dr Rob Cooling, Vice President, Health, Safety, Quality and Environment, Expo 2020 Dubai, who visualised this tournament said: "Our Better Together programme has been implemented to demonstrate the care, respect and pride we hold for the tens of thousands of workers helping to build Expo 2020. The annual cricket tournament is one of the ways we show our appreciation – and today’s game was a fitting finale to this year’s competition.”
Afridi wants India to play in Pakistan and feels that the decision to host Pakistan Super League (PSL) at home this year has shown his country is safe now. “PSL is our own tournament and it should not be played in other countries. The whole of PSL being held in Pakistan is a good message for all countries, as also Bangladesh touring and playing even Test cricket, shows that our security situation is good. I am waiting for India to come to Pakistan and play a series.”
PSL is our own tournament and it should not be played in other countries. The whole of PSL being held in Pakistan is a good message for all countries, as also Bangladesh touring and playing even Test cricket, shows that our security situation is good. I am waiting for India to come to Pakistan and play a series
Afridi believes that long-term planning can transform Pakistan into a strong squad. Speaking on Sarfraz Ahmad’s removal as captain and plans of a new captain, Afridi said: “Sarfraz was struggling to find his own form and the team was not winning as well under his captaincy — obviously the blame fell on the captain. The new management had new ideas as well. They should not be naming a captain for just one or two series but should plan for a long term captain. For an year and half, they should give him a free reign and they should be patient.”
Afridi agrees with Misbah-ul-Haq’s decision to stop cricketers from having biryani and sweets to get fitter. “It is indeed a good decision by Misbah because fitness is very important in today’s cricket. I still look after myself because if I have to play, I should be fit enough to play. It is very important if you are fit then you can display your skills very well. So polishing on your skills is very important In today’s cricket fitness and skill go together.”
Afridi is happy with the form of Babar Azam and Abid Ali in recent times. “Babar is very consistent and that is what everyone should strive to achieve. Abid Ali is an example of doing well enough in first class cricket consistently a win a place in the Pakistan team. Both are using their opportunities to do well for Pakistan.”
A Boom Boom Academy?
On a different note, Afridi, nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’ for his aggressive game, wants cricketers to play entertaining cricket and carry on his legacy of hitting sixes. “I want to start a cricket academy and find some good cricketers and educate them in a good environment. For that I need some support from the government to arrange me a land so that I can build an academy,” he said.
When asked whether his style of six-hitting will be part of the training in the academy, Afridi said: “Yes, of course, it will be a Boom Boom cricket academy.”