Afridi 'very confident' despite Ajmal absence
Pakistan's Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi has said he is not worried about his spin attack despite the absence of lead spinner Saeed Ajmal for the series against Australia. Afridi, who was named the T20 captain recently, talked up left-arm spinner Raza Hasan, who is expected to take the banned Ajmal's place in the one-off Twenty20 on Sunday.
"We all know the importance of Saeed Ajmal very well, but I'm very confident on the guy Raza Hasan," Afridi said. "As a captain if I look at my bowling line-up, I know we'll miss Ajmal but we have a very good bunch of guys. So I'm very confident about the bowling line-up. I'm very positive about Raza Hasan, he is a very talented guy and we have some other guys as well who will play in the one-dayers as well. I'm fine with our bowling, I have no issues."
The 22-year-old Hasan has played seven T20 internationals, turning in an impressive performance in the 2012 World Twenty20, but has not played at the international level for two years after he injured his disc in his spine. He will assist Afridi and the experienced Mohammad Hafeez in the spin department, in the lone T20 and the three ODIs. While Ajmal's 141 wickets make him the leading wicket-taker among spinners in the last four years, Afridi and Hafeez are not too far behind, ranked fourth and fifth respectively.
"For the last four-five years our spinners have done really well - the combination of Saeed Ajmal, myself and Hafeez," Afridi said. "We've got some very good fast bowlers as well, some youngsters, some good allrounders. As spinners we have done well in Australia and South Africa as well. So we are very balanced and I'm very confident. Both teams are balanced and I think it will be a good game."
Afridi and Hasan were also among the players who were fined by the PCB last month for being below their optimum level of fitness. Afridi said that the players have already improved their fitness levels and went on to praise the PCB for setting such high standards.
"Fitness was not lacking by 15%, that was an improvement in fitness by 15%," he said. "The other 8% that is missing will also be fulfilled soon hopefully and the PCB has set a great example for everyone - senior or junior - that fitness level should be high. I'm feeling very good and confident, and will hopefully not give anyone any more opportunities to raise fingers at me."