BRIDGETOWN: Ahmed Shehzad has thanked the Pakistan management team for showing confidence in him following his World Cup calamity which almost cost him a trip to the Caribbean. The 19-year-old opening batsman was speaking after he made 102 – his second One-day International – to lead Pakistan to a seven-wicket victory over West Indies on Monday to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series. Shehzad failed to score consistently in five matches in the World Cup, and was dropped, leading to questions about his place in the squad for the tour of the Caribbean.
But the Pakistan selectors and the team management continued to show faith in him and Monday’s hundred was a down-payment on that investment. Shehzad has become the latest player to hail the visitors’ limited-overs captain Shahid Afridi for instilling a sense of self-belief and self-confidence in him. “I would like to thank my team management for the way they have supported me,” he said. “Shahid is the man to follow. He is giving confidence to every single individual – I think it is amazing.”
Afridi was naturally happy to see Shehzad find his feet again, and believes he has a bright future. “I think he is a very, very talented guy,” said Afridi. “He really performed well in New Zealand, but he did not have such a good World Cup. “Myself and the team management have confidence in him, and he showed he is capable of performing.” Pakistan will now focus on winning the third ODI on Thursday at Kensington Oval here, and take an unbeatable lead in the series. The Pakistanis have outplayed West Indies in every department, with their spin bowlers in particular finding the conditions in St. Lucia so favourable they restricted the home team to modest totals of 221 for six and 220 all out, and their batting hardly troubled by the hosts’ tame attack of which Devendra Bishoo has taken four of the five wickets that have fallen.
West Indies, on the other hand, have stunned observers by resisting the urge to tamper with their squad, and have named an unchanged roster for the match. They will continue the struggle without Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, and now fast bowler Jerome Taylor – all at the Indian Premier League – while Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and beanpole left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn have been overlooked again. Although Fidel Edwards is fit again and played in the West Indies first-class championship for his native Barbados, it is felt that he may be eased back into the game, and will likely return for the two Tests that follow the ODI series. West Indies captain Darren Sammy was under no illusions about the enormity of the task that confronts his side, but stressed they had to seize the tight moments.
“We weren’t rolled over,” he said. “We kept ourselves in the matches right to the finish. There were moments when things could have gone either way, but we didn’t make it happen. “We have to find a way to make it happen for us. We have to find a way to win those tight situations.” Sammy remained confident that West Indies could stage a fight-back in Barbados with a victory. “It’s not out of our reach,” he said. “We have been showing the fight. We have the belief that we can turn things around and make it happen.”
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Dwayne Bravo (vice captain), Carlton Baugh Jr, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Kirk Edwards, Anthony Martin, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Devon Smith.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Misbahul Haq (vice captain), Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shahzad, Asad Shafiq, Hammad Azman, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Salman, Sadaf Hussain, Saeed Ajmal, Tanveer Ahmed, Taufeeq Umar, Umar Akmal, Usman Salahuddin, Wahab Riaz.