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Shaheen Afridi says ‘best is yet to come’

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Pakistan pace ace Shaheen Shah Afridi has warned his devastating spell against arch-rivals India that set the Asia Cup alight is just the start, with the World Cup 2023 only weeks away.  

The left-arm fast bowler rattled the Indian top-order in their Group A clash last week, taking 4-35 — including the wickets of star batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

That match was washed out but they meet again in Colombo on Sunday in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup, a precursor to the 50-over World Cup that kicks off next month.

And Shaheen Afridi told AFP there is more to come.

“Every match against India is special and people watch this a lot,” the 23-year-old said Friday. “I used to wait for this match as a fan before I played under-16 cricket.”

“I can’t say this has been my best spell so far. This is just the start and there will be many more, so the best is yet to come.”

With his ability to move the ball both ways, Shaheen leads one of the most potent pace attacks in the world.

“If you play all the three formats at such a young age for Pakistan and handle the new ball, people expect you to perform like that,” he said.

Shaheen and his fellow fast bowlers Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf have picked up 23 wickets between them in the Asia Cup so far.

“We know our roles with the new and old ball,” Shaheen said.

“Haris is quicker than us and impacts with his pace. Naseem and I try to get early breakthroughs.”

The “communication is good between us,” he added. “And that’s our success.”

Shaheen, who stands at 6 feet and 6 inches (1.98 metres), suffered a serious knee injury last year but returned strongly in Sri Lanka in July.

“It’s your match time that helps you improve. These Test matches against Sri Lanka recently made me improve as I bowled long spells and fielded all day,” said Shaheen, who has 105 wickets in 27 Tests.

“So that cleared all doubts about the knee injury.”

Shaheen Afridi has never played cricket in India — bilateral cricket ties are frozen because of political tensions between the neighbours.

He is keen to do well when Pakistan take on hosts India in the hotly anticipated World Cup match in Ahmedabad on October 14.

“All the foreign players who have played in the IPL (Indian Premier League), we had discussions with them. I think our Pakistan wickets or Dubai pitches will be similar,” he said.

“Spinners will get more help, maybe. We will hit good lengths. Our team performance is going well as the number one (ODI) team. We have prepared well.”

Shaheen Afridi is married to one of the daughters of former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, and said he speaks to the former all-rounder before every big match.

“I try to pick his brains before a big game and include it in my plans as he was a big-match player,” said Shaheen.

“He talks simply and says: ‘Just play your cricket’.”

A fan of legendary Pakistani left-arm fast bowler Wasim Akram, Shaheen Afridi said he keeps his focus on the field by avoiding cricket off it.

“I don’t go out much and stay in my room. Just stay indoors, make green tea… and talk about anything other than cricket,” he said.

“That keeps me relaxed.”

READ: Asia Cup 2023: Babar Azam believes Pakistan has an ‘edge’ over India

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