Former batsman Aamer Sohail has revealed how the team management made a mistake in including Shahid Afridi as an opener in Pakistan’s squad for the 1999 World Cup, claiming the all-rounder back then could ‘neither bowl nor bat’. Sohail, who captained Pakistan in six Tests in 1998 and in 22 ODIs between 1996 and 1998, described how he was more inclined towards making Mohammad Yousuf open the innings for the World Cup but the management opted for Afridi.
“When I was captain in 1998, we had decided with the selectors that we should have regular openers for the World Cup who can stay at the wicket and play out the new ball,” Sohail said on his YouTube channel.
“Unfortunately, you opted for Shahid Afridi, he had ability on flat low-bouncing tracks where he would take on the bowlers and bring the opposition under pressure. But in demanding conditions, that is a big gamble. He was neither able to bowl nor able to bat. If I was the captain instead of Wasim Akram, I would have preferred Mohammad Yousuf.”
Afridi was a flop in the 1999 World Cup, scoring only 93 runs in seven innings at a lowly average of 13.28. Despite reaching the final of the 1999 World Cup, Sohail reckons Pakistan played like a ‘local team’, and that things could have been a lot different had the management been a little more sorted with their decision.
“So, according to me there were two reasons for your loss at the World Cup. One was that your team combination was not correct at all and the other that you opted to bat after winning the toss when you knew that it had been pelting down in London.”
“From my cricketing experience and my observation, I can say that we played the entire World Cup like a local team. We had one line-up in a match and a different line-up in the next match with changing batting orders.”
As mentioned above, Sohail was not a fan of Pakistan opting to bat first after winning the toss. The Australian bowlers, led by Glenn McGrath’s 2/13 in nine overs and Shane Warne’s 4/33 were bowled out Pakistan for just 132, before Australian chased it down in only the 21st over to be crowned World Champions for a second time.
“Before the World Cup final, there were reports that it had rained a lot in London. As it is, there is a slope at Lord’s due to which the ball does something all the time,” Sohail said. “Salim Malik told me that he had requested Wasim Akram not to bat first after winning the toss else we would be in great difficulty. We should not have exposed our batsmen on a difficult pitch against a confident Australian bowling line-up.
“Salim Malik told me that Wasim Akram had said that we would definitely bowl first after winning the toss. Because our bowling was doing well at that time, we could have restricted the opposition to a low total and lifted the confidence of our batsmen.”