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Akmal will not be made a scapegoat: Afridi

Afridi says Pakistan are still well-placed to reach the quarter finals.

PALLEKELE: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said Thursday that blundering wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal will not be made a scapegoat and fans should expect a traditional World Cup rollercoaster ride.

The 29-year-old Akmal has endured a blitz of criticism after his calamitous performance against New Zealand where two horror blunders allowed Ross Taylor to escape on nought and eight before the batsman smashed an unbeaten 131.

New Zealand’s 110-run win was Pakistan’s first defeat in the tournament and prompted calls for Akmal’s younger brother Umar to be handed the gloves for the remaining group games against Zimbabwe and Australia.

That would leave Kamran to play as a specialist batsman, even being promoted to open. Umar, who kept wicket in three Twenty20 internationals and a one-dayer last year, was seen practicing keeping in the team’s net session on Thursday.

“Kamran has done a lot of hard work for this World Cup, but he has not lived up to that level, and we suffered a lot after he couldn’t perform,” said Afridi.

His lapses allowed New Zealand to post a challenging 302-7 in Tuesday’s game, after mustering a whopping 100 runs off the last five overs, after struggling at 202-4 in 45 overs.

Afridi stressed that Pakistan, who face Zimbabwe on Monday, should not panic as they are still well-placed to reach the quarter-finals.

“Kamran has won lots of matches for Pakistan in the past, he is a very talented cricketer, and I think we are at a stage where we shouldn’t panic. There are other players who are not performing – it’s not only Kamran.

“We need to back them. If we make several changes we can face problems in future matches, so we will see if Kamran plays the next game or not. From my side, I think we should give Kamran confidence.

“He is a good player and we expect that he will do better.” Afridi urged fans back home to forget the defeat to New Zealand and that following Pakistan is always a nerve-racking affair.

“Because of the way we have batted, bowled and fielded everyone should get angry but then we have to forget this anger and we should have confidence for the next match,” said the captain. “Everyone realises that we have made big mistakes but if you look at Pakistan cricket over the last 50-60 years it’s quite normal for our team.”

Afridi said Pakistan still need to solve their problems with their opening pair. “We are here with perfect openers and I don’t think we can take a chance on Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez. But we might open with Kamran, that’s one of the options,” said Afridi.

Pakistan’s best opening partnership in four matches was just 28 against Sri Lanka.