'It is time for me to give a lot to the team' - Afridi
In his last 10 matches before the ODI against West Indies in Guyana, Shahid Afridi had scored 142 runs at an average of 17.75 and had taken just three wickets. It was a run of failure that had forced his ouster from the Pakistan team for the Champions Trophy. But after staging possibly one of the greatest ODI comebacks, that helped Pakistan thrash West Indies by 126 runs in the first ODI in Guyana, Afridi said his goal going into the game was to give back to the team and not just 'survive'.
"I try hard and I back myself and I want to thank people back home," Afridi said. "It is not time for me to just survive in the team, but to give a lot to the team. It was not easy to survive so I tried to stay positive."
On a pitch where batsmen from both sides struggled to score runs, Afridi's 76 came off 55 balls and his 120-run partnership with Misbah-ul-Haq rescued Pakistan from a dangerous 47 for 5.
"Whenever I got the ball in my zone I went for it," Afridi said. "I knew Misbah was at the other end. I knew he would stay till the end, it gave me the confidence to go after it."
Afridi, who finished with seven wickets for 12 runs, making it one of the best all-round performances in ODI cricket, was thrilled with his bowling: "Oh wow, wow, wow, wow what a pitch it was for me to bowl on. I just kept it simple, and it worked."
Calling the track 'one of the more difficult pitches' he had played on, Misbah said he targeted a score of 200, as he believed it would challenge the West Indies batting.
"It was a much-needed performance," Misbah said. "Especially the way Shahid Afridi played. It is one of the more difficult pitches I have played on. It was seaming, it was stopping, it was really difficult to middle the ball. I thought if we could reach 200, we could fight. And Shahid helped me. On a pitch that it was difficult to middle the balls Shahid was hitting fours and sixes. Jason Holder bowled well. The fielding was wonderful. Everybody was charged up. Every bowler bowled well."
West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo called it "a game to forget". Bravo praised his bowlers, specially Jason Holder, for their early spells, which reduced Pakistan to 47 for 5, but said a player like Afridi could simply change the momentum of the game. Bravo also stressed that his batsmen would need to regain their confidence quickly if West Indies had to draw level with Pakistan by winning the second ODI on Tuesday.
"It's hard to pinpoint where we went wrong. As a batting unit, we let ourselves down," Bravo said. "Coming after the last two disappointing games in Trinidad, we came here to Guyana, we had a good practice session. I think the batters lacked confidence and as a batting group, the team lacked runs. They have a very good bowling attack, so credit to the Pakistan team. They got to a good total after 47 for 5. Afridi changed the momentum, but he played his part with the ball, also. We should give credit to them, they outplayed us. It's something we have to definitely look at again."
While admitting that the team played badly, Bravo ruled out any changes to the side, saying it wouldn't help West Indies.
"That XI was our best XI and we believe in the team," Bravo said. "We have to back the players who did it for us, but yeah, making changes after one game is not going to help. We have to give players the opportunity to continue to get back that form and we know how dangerous our key players can be once they get back into form. Changes will not sort the problem, it is a more mental situation, so once you get over that, we're going to be fine."
In spite of a poor day in the field, Bravo said his bowlers had improved from their last two games against India and Sri Lanka in the tri-series. "One of our biggest improvements from the last two games in Trinidad was the last 10 overs," Bravo said. "They only scored around 50 runs in the last 10 overs, while in the games in Trinidad, the teams scored over 100 runs in the last 10 overs."