The duo of Asif Ali and Shaheen Afridi were dropped as Pakistan opt for spin twins Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim for big India game
MANCHESTER: Pakistan’s players woke up here on Sunday to a series of tweets from Prime Minister Imran Khan with a clear message that Sarfraz Ahmed should rely on specialists rather than ‘railu kattas’ who rarely perform under pressure.
Whether Imran, a former Pakistan captain who is also figurehead of the country’s cricket board, should have tweeted such a controversial statement just hours before Pakistan’s all-important World Cup clash against old foes India remains debatable. It also remains to be seen as to how Sarfraz and his teams will respond to the PM’s remarks.
But the Pakistani players did look tense as they trained here at Old Trafford ahead of the much-anticipated match. While a visibly-relaxed Virat Kohli and his Indian team exhibited their football skills on one side of the ground, Pakistani players were seen doing some serious fielding drills.
Back in a crowded press box, some were wondering as to who were the players in the Pakistan who fit the description of ‘railu kattas’. Asif Ali, who has flopped miserably in this World Cup, was the obvious suspect. Some people thought that it could also be Imad Wasim, but the all-rounder didn’t feature in Pakistan’s 41-run defeat against Australia in Taunton.
It was decided to wait till Pakistan announce their final 11 because that would perhaps underline the players, who had probably failed to impress the PM, who is also the only World Cup-winning Pakistani captain.
It was soon announced that Pakistan have opted to drop Asif Ali and young fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi and have instead opted for leggie Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim in their line-up for the high-pressure encounter.
One wasn’t sure whether the changes were made after Imran’s tweets. Because Sarfraz and Pakistan didn’t take Imran’s advice to bat first. Sarfraz won the toss and elected to bowl.
Earlier, Imran minced no words as he made a series of tweets to give his expert advice to Sarfraz ahead of the big game against India.
He stressed the importance of mental strength to succeed in international sport.
"When I started my cricketing career I assumed success was 70% talent & 30% mind. By the time I finished playing cricket I felt it was 50-50 ratio," he tweeted.
"But now I tend to agree with my friend Gavaskar it's 60% mental strength & 40 % talent. Today role of mind will be more than 60%."
Imran hailed Sarfraz for being a bold captain.
"Today, given the intensity of the match, both teams will come under great mental pressure and the power of the mind will decide the outcome of the match today. In Sarfaraz we are fortunate to have a bold captain & today he will have to be at his daring best."
Imran stressed that Pakistan shouldn’t have the fear of losing.
"All fears of losing should be banished from the mind as the mind can only process one thought at a time. Fear of losing leads to a negative & defensive strategy & crucially mistakes by opponents are not pounced upon.
“In order to have a winning offensive strategy Sarfaraz must go in with specialist batsmen and bowlers because "Raillu Kattas" rarely perform under pressure - especially the intense kind that will be generated today.
“Unless pitch is damp, Sarfaraz must win the toss & bat.
“Finally, even though India may be the favourites, banish all fear of losing. Just give your best and fight till the last ball. Then accept whatever the result like true sportsmen.”