Malik banks on Afridi firepower

Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik said the presence of explosive striker Shahid Afridi would provide his team some psychological advantage.

updated: September 13, 2007 16:11 IST
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Playing down the absence of fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik said the presence of explosive striker Shahid Afridi would provide his team some psychological advantage in the much-awaited Twenty20 clash against India on Friday.

After the disastrous World Cup in the West Indies, in which both India and Pakistan made first round exits, the two sides are ready to square up against each other and Malik is banking on Afridi's firepower to notch up a win against the arch-rivals.

"For us, any game against India is very special. My team is working hard and they are keen to go out and give their best against India," Malik said.

"Actually, anyone can be a trump card in this version of the game. If a bowler gets two wickets in an over, or if a batsmen gets you 15 runs in an over, he could turn the game on its head. But, having said that, we do have an advantage in having a player like Afridi in our ranks because getting a
good start will be important.

"If the openers give a head start while batting, or if the bowlers do well in the first five-six overs, it can make a huge difference. It's like the 100-metre race. Getting a good start is very important," Malik said.

Pakistan rely heavily on Afridi's big-hitting prowess and the 27-year old - who has the world record for scoring a 37-ball hundred besides hitting the most number of sixes in one-dayers (239) - gives them a big advantage.

While Malik did not prefer to talk about maverick pacer Shoaib Akhtar, coach Geoff Lawson said the absence of the showman - who was sent back after clashing with fellow pace bowler Mohammad Asif in the dressing room - would take some gloss off the tournament.

"Pakistan still has a good bowling attack in Asif, Umar Gul and Iftekar Anjum.

"Without Shoaib Akhtar, it threatens to be less entertaining probably. But we got two outstanding pace bowlers in our team. His absence is not going to affect our tactics or how we approach the game. And it's not going to make a huge difference," said Lawson.

The coach expressed confidence on the batting line-up of the side, which has in it some quick scorers.

"We have got a number of batsmen who can score quickly. That's a great strength that we have. Someone like Afridi can get a 50 off 15 balls. He can hit the best bowling attack all over.

"We have a very strong battling line-up. They all play attacking cricket. If Pakistan play to their potential they can be an extremely dangerous side," he said.