While declaring that his talented brigade is ready to meet the challenge, Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi on Friday looked for support and prayers of the nation and backing of the media in their endeavour to retain their World Twenty20 title in the West Indies.

“My team and I are geared up to, tactically and technically, live up to the expectations of the nation for accomplishing the task [of winning] in the West Indies,” Afridi said in an interview here on Friday, prior to his squad’s departure to Lahore on their way to St Lucia on Saturday morning.

“Without the prayers of the nation and supporters across the world, the Pakistan [cricket] team cannot achieve anything. Besides playing patriotically for Pakistan we need support of countrymen and the media,” the aggressive player added.

“My appeal to the national media is to go for healthy criticism while keeping Pakistan’s interest above everything,” he emphasised.

“My mission as captain, with the support of my players and team management, is to keep the team away from any controversy,” he asserted.

Making it clear that he was not under any kind of pressure, Afridi, the 2009 World Twenty20 hero, said: “I like to lead the team from the front because it’s my style. And I always believe in an aggressive approach.

“We are fully equipped to face the challenges in the West Indies.
“I have a well balanced team in batting and bowling. And we have to further lift the standard of fielding,” Afridi said. The skipper noted fielding would be vital in the Caribbean.

“Fielding is crucial area in this fastest version of the game [Twenty20] and a lot of hard work was done to raise the standard. We are ready give our best and rest with Allah The Almighty,” he stressed.

The captain dispelled the impression that Pakistan might face trouble in batting department. “It’s altogether different in T20 cricket. We got a lot of firepower in our batting.”

He said they were initially planning to start the innings with Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal. “We have experienced Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, young Umar Akmal, Khalid Latif and Salman Butt.

“As we expect spinning tracks and for this we have good options in Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and myself,” Afridi maintained. “[In pace department] we have Mohammad Aamir, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq.

“Twenty20 is very tough and demanding cricket and we cannot afford to take any team lightly. We even cannot take Bangladesh lightly as they possess a number of talented cricketers in their line-up,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, a number of Afridi and Pakistan supporters including former Test opener and captain Saeed Anwar, former PCB Chairman Lt Gen (r) Tauqir Zia, Sindh Sports Minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, former chief selector Salahuddin Sallu, former city nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal and others visited his house here on Thursday and wished him and Pakistan team great luck in the World Twenty20 contest.

With the exception of two fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami, the rest of the Pakistan team will leave together from Lahore for the West Indies via Dubai- London on Saturday morning to defend their title in the World Twenty20, starting on April 30.

Asif will leave for London on a direct flight from Lahore, while Sami, who does not have a British visa, will travel to the Caribbean via New York from Karachi the same day.

Asif will team up with the rest of the team in England, Sami will join them in St. Lucia.
Pakistan have displayed fine performances in World T20 events so far as in the first World Cup’s edition which was held in South Africa, Pakistan lost the final to India closely, but in the second edition in England last year it defeated Sri Lanka to lift the cup, under Younus Khan’s captaincy.

However, Younus is not part of the team for this edition, because he had announced his retirement from this shorter version of the game soon after winning the mega event. Pakistan are also without without fast bowler Umar Gul, who is nursing a shoulder injury.—APP/Dawn