Sydney, Jan 6: Pakistan team Director Mohammad Hafeez defended the decision after Shaheen Shah Afridi was omitted from the lineup in the third Test against Australia, emphasizing the duty of care to players beyond individual matches.
After Pakistan's eight-wicket defeat at the SCG, Hafeez explained that Afridi's omission was a strategic move to prioritize his long-term career. Despite Afridi's stellar performance in the first two Tests, the toll on his body led to concerns about his ability to deliver his best in the third Test.
Hafeez stated, "He bowled really well in those two games and bowled the most of any bowler. When I asked him before the third Test, his body was sore. And I need to look after him more than anything."
The absence of Afridi further weakened an already depleted Pakistan bowling attack, with key players like Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, and Abrar Ahmed already unavailable.
Pakistan's reliance on Afridi in such circumstances was evident in the frequency with which Shan Masood turned to him in the first two games, with Afridi bowling just shy of 100 overs in two Test matches. No fast bowler from either side - even those who played three Tests, bowled anywhere close to that number, and by the end of the second Test, the second-busiest bowler was offspinner Nathan Lyon, having sent down fewer than 70 overs.
“If someone thinks their body is sore and they can't deliver the best, we need to look after the career of the individual. I will never make a decision where a player can lose his career for six months or a year. It was a tough call but we made that decision for the betterment of the players. Because we cannot make that decision at the cost of a player's career,” said Hafeez.
The decision sparked heated debates, with accusations that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was favoring T20 cricket over the longer format. Former fast bowlers Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis criticized the move, with Wasim suggesting that Afridi had made himself unavailable and Waqar expressing disbelief at the decision.
"Let's not pretend this has anything to do with the management. It is solely Shaheen's decision,” Wasim said to Fox Cricket.
Waqar found Afridi's absence surprising, stating, "He looked good in the previous match. He started feeling like the old Shaheen Afridi and started to swing the ball, and the pace was getting better."
Afridi, appointed captain of the Pakistan T20I series, faced scrutiny over balancing his Test commitments and leadership roles in T20 cricket. With upcoming T20 series in New Zealand, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), and the T20 World Cup, the workload added to the complexity of the decision. (IANS)