Pakistan's ODI vice-captain Shahid Afridi has quashed rumours about an ongoing rift with captain Younis Khan, and believes Younis is the ideal man to lead the team.
"I am fed up of the thousand and one stories doing the rounds about me and Younis not getting along or me playing in the hands of a certain lobby, my lust for captaincy and the like," he told Dawn, the Pakistan daily. "I take this opportunity to clarify once and for all that Younis and I go a long way as friends, almost 15 years, and are mature enough to discuss and sort out any problem under the sun in an amicable way.
"We won the World Twenty20 in June this year under Younis' leadership and there's no reason why I should not back him for leading the team and the country to more such laurels in the future.
"A mountain was made out of a molehill by some quarters about my meeting with the PCB chief earlier this month, which, centered around the Twenty20 planning and not captaincy. But I am quite used to such rumours of discord or leadership difference which surface everytime Pakistan lose a key match or a tournament. I am not unfazed by them anymore."
Afridi, who was appointed Pakistan's Twenty20 captain after Younis retired from the shortest format after the World Twenty20, said he was not aware of any lobby working to remove Younis as captain, but advised that the problems should be sorted out in a mature manner.
"When so many people with varying temperaments are thrown together for several weeks or months on a tour, things of course cannot always be trouble-free," Afridi said "But cricket is through and through a team game, more than any other sports perhaps. I feel the players, the skipper and the team management should accommodate each other on all fronts to make it a success on the field."
Having completed 13 international years in the game, Afridi said the experience had taught him to handle things better, both personally and professionally. "I have come to realise that no one is bigger than the game and holding grudges will not do anyone any good. At the end of the day, only your performance for the country matters, difference of opinion should not dictate your game, never."
Afridi said the team was looking to avenge the Champions Trophy semi-final defeat against New Zealand, in the upcoming limited-overs series in the UAE. "We will not be taking them lightly but one thing I can tell you with confidence; we are definitely better prepared for them this time," Afridi said. "So bring on the Vettoris, the Bonds, the Kyle Mills. We are ready for you."
About his future plans as Twenty20 captain, Afridi said he had around 25 or 30 players in mind, who could form the nucleus for the next year's World Twenty20 in West Indies. "I have certain ideas about grooming some of the younger players and building a solid team for 2010."