Ahead of Pakistan’s semifinal clash against New Zealand in the ICC T20 World Cup semifinal at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, legendary Australian cricketer Ricky Ponting has revealed Shaheen Afridi, even if not at his fiery best, will have more impact on the game than most “because of how good he is".
Afridi missed the entire Asia Cup in the UAE and the seven-match T20I series against England at home before the T20 World Cup because of a knee injury, but Ponting said, even if the tall quick is operating at 90 per cent of his capacity, he is better than all the other bowlers.
Afridi produced his best performance of the World Cup so far when he collected superb figures of 4/22 against Bangladesh on Sunday and that spell helped Pakistan earn the semifinals spot.
“He might say that he’s not back to 100 per cent just yet, but from what I’ve seen it looks like he’s going along beautifully and he now holds the key for Pakistan progressing in the tournament," Ponting said on ICC.
Afridi had hurt his right knee while fielding during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle in July and the recovery and rehabilitation has been slow for the 22-year-old.
He went wicketless during Pakistan’s opening two games of the tournament against India and Zimbabwe, but Ponting said he always had faith the left-arm bowler.
“(I never had any doubt) as you just know what he’s capable of when he’s out there on the field," Ponting said. “And as I said, even if he’s not at 100 per cent, if he’s operating at 90 per cent, he’s still going to have more of an impact on games than most because of how good he is.
“So look, he might have had a few worries in the back of his own mind and the Pakistan hierarchy and coaching group might have had a few worries in their mind, but not anymore. He’s got through really well so far and hopefully for them two more games to go," added Ponting.
Ponting compared Afridi’s return to form to the way India’s Virat Kohli had sprung to life in Australia and indicated sometimes you just need to put your faith in the champion players to produce on the big stage.
“It’s almost a bit like the India scenario with Virat (Kohli) coming into this tournament," Ponting noted. “Sometimes you just have to stick with them and pick them and let them go because champion players will find a way to get the job done.
“And as the tournament’s gone on he (Afridi) has got better and better and hopefully the best is still to come," added Ponting.