Rafat fitter than any player in current squad: Afridi

Pakistan T20 skipper Shahid Afridi has expressed delight over the inclusion of Rafatullah Mohmand for the series against England.

Rafat represented Peshawar Panthers in the latest edition of the National T20 Cup which was held in September and the opener scored 230 runs in seven matches at an average of 32.86.

Afridi said that 39-year-old Rafat, despite his age, would add a lot to the side because of his high level of fitness and great fielding.

“I have been watching Rafat for two, three years. People talk about him being too old for the T20 format, but his fitness is extraordinary and I think in the current squad we do not have a fitter player than Rafat,” Afridi told reporters in Lahore.

“He is a great fielder too and I always wanted such a player in my side. I am very confident that he will live up to my expectations,” added the swashbuckling all-rounder.

Afridi said that many combinations had been tested to build the best possible team for the World T20 which starts on March 11, 2016.

“To build a good T20 side, keeping in mind the future assignments, many different players have been tested and been given many chances,” said the 35-year-old.

“Some of the players who were the part of the squad got dropped because of their attitude in the domestic circuit,” he added.

Afridi said that the process of the forming the T20 team for next year’s World T20 was almost complete and the few matches which will be played before the competition will decide if there is a need for finishing touches.

“I am quite satisfied with the current team combination of the T20 side,” said the veteran all-rounder.

“I think one or two players will fill the loopholes if any exist.

“The on-going series against England can potentially provide another good player to be added in the T20 team.

“I have been in touch with the selection committee and we believe that the team is almost complete for the World T20,” he added.

Afridi revealed that he will be representing the Pakistan A side in an unofficial five-match T20 series to be played in Dubai in December.

“I will be featuring for the Pakistan A side which will play England Lions. I think this series will also help us pick any new faces if needed.

“But at the moment I think we do not need to being any big changes to the T20 side,” said Afridi.

The Umar Akmal conundrum

Afridi also called out for the Umar Akmal case to be solved as soon as possible.

The all-rounder said that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should look to solve matters as early as possible as Akmal was an important part of Afridi’s preparations for next year’s World T20 in India.

Umar Akmal was dropped from Pakistan’s T20 squad for the upcoming three-match series against England on Thursday, with the PCB citing a violation of its code of conduct.

PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan said that the batsman was excluded from the squad on his due to his involvement in “unethical activities”, a day earlier and ordered an inquiry in the incident.

“The investigation regarding Umar Akmal should finish as soon as possible and the decision should be taken early as he is an important part of my plans for the T20 side, especially for the World T20 next year,” said the star cricketer.

Afridi said that according to what he ‘heard’, Akmal was being victimised by the media, which is creating unnecessary hype related to the 25-year-old middle-order batsman.

“I’ve been hearing that the hype being created by the media about what Umar did is exaggerated and hardly corresponds with what really happened,” said Afridi.

“Still, I think the investigation should take place and if Umar is proven to be a culprit then obviously I will not object if he is dropped,” he added.

Earlier Umar Akmal addressed reporters in Lahore, claiming media talks regarding the matter as ‘baseless’.

“I am not answerable to anyone apart from the department I am playing for,” said Umar.

“The PCB too will receive my explanation by tomorrow,” he added.

The 25-year-old also expressed his wish to play as much cricket for Pakistan as he can.

“Cricket is my love and I want to represent Pakistan for a long period of time,” said the hard-hitting batsman.

The middle-order batsman from Lahore thanked Afridi for supporting him.

“I am thankful to Shahid Afridi for backing me in this situation and considering me an important part of the team,” said Akmal.

Pakistan play England in a three-match T20 series which kicks off in the UAE on November 26.

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