Akhtar to be picked if needed: Afridi
Colombo: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi on Thursday said he has a surprise plan in place to tame defending champions Australia but refused to say whether retiring pacer Shoaib Akhtar would be a part of the side for Saturday`s final Group A match here or the remainder of the World Cup.
Afridi also rejected suggestions that Akhtar`s announcement of retiring after the World Cup would affect the team in any way. "He (Akhtar) has taken a right decision. He could have announced it after the World Cup, but I don`t think the timing is wrong and it won`t affect our team," Afridi said here.
The 35-year-old Akhtar has been off-colour and was dropped from the team for its previous group game against Zimbabwe. Afridi said emotions won`t play a part in selection and the mercurial bowler would be included only when he is needed in the line-up.
"We have a settled combination and if we need we can play him in the remaining matches," Afridi said. "Akhtar has won us many games, many series and now he has taken a decision after considering his fitness, so it`s his own decision and it`s a good decision.”
"We selected him in the squad because he can get reverse swing going and he worked really hard to get a place in the squad," he added. Afridi also denied reports of rift in the ream after Akhtar had a spat with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal due to a couple of dropped chances in the 110-run loss to New Zealand.
"There was nothing serious between them, there is no breaking news in it," Afridi said about the controversy which led to a USD 2,000 fine on Akhtar.
"Akhtar was never upset, he is enjoying the World Cup," he added. Talking about the much-anticipated match, Afridi said Pakistan are ready to stun the four-time world champions with a surprise strategy.
"We have made some plans against them because they are very strong mentally and physically, so you will see in the game we will do something new against these guys," he said.
"We know that this game is very important for us to end in a good position in the group. If we win, we will go into quarters with a win and a good, positive attitude, which is more important," he added.
Afridi said Australia are a top team with quality players. "They are very professional, they are a good batting and bowling side as well. They know how to bowl reverse swing, especially when Brett Lee comes back and Shaun Tait as well.
"They know how to use these condition as well. But we know our strengths too, we know how to tackle and deal with these guys so we are well-prepared," he said.