The Pakistan Cricket Board and its medical panel is facing numerous questions on whether premier fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi has recovered enough from a knee injury to be match fit for the ongoing T20 World Cup.
Former fast bowling greats, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, former captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Lahore Qalanders head coach Aaqib Javed all felt that Shaheen looked short of match fitness and practice while playing against India on Sunday in Melbourne.
“This was not the Shaheen that we know. His rythm was not there and it begs the question, has he been picked in the side too early and is he match fit now for such a big tournament?" Waqar questioned.
Shaheen, who suffered a knee injury while fielding in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle in mid-July, went into the crucial match against India on Sunday after bowling just 6 overs in two warm up games in Brisbane.
Pakistan’s former captain and head coach said when the team was in New Zealand for the tri-series before the World Cup, he had spoken to Babar Azam, Saqlain Mushtaq and the team doctor about Shaheen’s fitness.
“I asked them about his progress and reminded them no matter how much he bowled in the nets but playing in a World Cup match was a totally different situation,” said Waqar.
“I asked them if his rehab was going well then why not try out him in the tri-series instead of waiting for the World Cup.” Akram also agreed and said that Shaheen looked short on match practice against India.
“He didn’t appear to have that zip in his bowling. That is understandable because any fast bowler returning from a knee injury is concerned at first about going flat out. Let’s see how quickly he gains full match fitness,” he said.
Aaqib, who has worked closely with Shaheen at the Lahore Qalanders franchise, said there was no doubt that Shaheen was not his usual self against India.
“He looked anxious and reluctant to really bend his back and that is natural when you are making a comeback from a knee injury. I just wonder whether he has been rushed back into competitive cricket early,” the former Test bowler said.
Shaheen, who has been Pakistan’s most lethal bowler in the last two years, went for 25 runs in his last two overs against India and conceded 19 runs in his final over to give India a chance of winning the thrilling match on Sunday.
Pakistan’s long-serving captain Misbah said he had always believed in only fielding a player who was 100 percent match fit. “It is never worth the risk to gamble with a bowler who is short on match practice,” he added.