Afridi set for another rollercoaster ride

KARACHI: Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi''s roller-coaster international career has reflected the fortunes of his team brilliant and baffling.

From the time in 1996 when he hit the fastest one-day century off 37 balls against Sri Lanka in Nairobi, Afridi has never been far from the headlines.

A big-match player, the 30-year-old was the player of the tournament for the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 in 2007 and last year led Pakistan to the title with match-winning performances in the semi-final and final.

"Pakistan are a team in the making at the moment and Shahid Afridi is quite a force in the shorter form of cricket," said Pakistan Test legend Mushtaq Mohammad.

"He won us the Twenty20 last summer. He is a very positive cricketer and we need somebody to lead Pakistan from the front."

Afridi, who gave up Test cricket in 2006, inherited the T20 captaincy after former skippers, and star batsmen, Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf were banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after the disastrous tour of Australia ended without a single international win for the visitors.

Even Afridi didn''t escape censure.

He was fined 35,000 dollars by the PCB for ball-tampering in a one-day match against Australia in Perth in February, although he appealed saying it was unfair to punish him twice after he was hit with a two-game ban by the International Cricket Council.

Afridi has played 27 Twenty20 internationals, scoring 475 runs with a highest score of 54 not out. He has also taken 37 wickets with a best of 4-11 and a miserly average of 16.32.

Afridi believes his team, who are in Group A for the first round with Bangladesh as well as old rivals Australia in the Caribbean, have the right balance to retain their title.

"I have a well balanced team in batting and bowling, and we have to further lift the standard of fielding. Fielding is crucial in this fastest version of the game and a lot of hard work was done to raise the standard," said the captain.

"But we have got a lot of firepower in our batting - Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Akmal, Khalid Latif and Salman Butt. As we expect spinning tracks, we have good options in Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and myself. In the pace department we have Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq."

Afridi also told a website that it was "mission as captain, with the support of players and team management, to keep the team away from any controversy."