Afridi happy to be back
Sharjah - Popular all-rounder Shahid Afridi on Monday said he has put all off-field problems behind him after guiding Pakistan to an impressive series win over Sri Lanka.
The 31-year-old hit a fighting 75 to lift Pakistan from a precarious 120-7 to 200 before taking 5-35 to derail Sri Lanka from 155-3 to 174 all out at the Sharjah stadium on Sunday, giving his team an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
That all-round performance capped Afridi's return to international cricket after he fell out with former coach Waqar Younis and ex-chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Ijaz Butt which saw him retire in protest.
Afridi, who only returned after Butt was replaced by Zaka Ashraf last month, said performing well is now more important for him.
"I think action speaks louder than words, a lot has been said but now I want to be a good cricketer and want to perform," said Afridi, who became the only player to score a half-century and take five wickets in the same one-day on two occasions.
His off-field problems had threatened an early finish to a high flying career during which he had been popular for his dashing strokeplay, more so among Pathans who hail from the same North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan as Afridi does.
Afridi rose to fame in his first series in 1997, hitting a 37-ball century against Sri Lanka in Kenya - still a world record for the fastest one-day hundred.
He also holds the record for hitting most one-day sixes with 293 - a stroke which fans always want from Afridi.
And a packed 16 000 crowd, mostly Pathan expats in the United Arab Emirates, was at hand to applaud every stroke Afridi played during his 65-ball knock, studded with four boundaries and three towering sixes.
"When you have a good atmosphere around you, then you try your best to deliver and I am overjoyed by the support in Sharjah where they cheered my singles so I was happy to put my head down initially," said Afridi.
Afridi said he is happy to support his captain Misbah-ul Haq.
"The way Misbah is leading, its great and the management is very good and when I was the captain Misbah was very helpful so I need to support him now he is the captain," said Afridi of Misbah who replaced him in June this year.
Afridi said as a senior player he wanted to be a role model.
"I want seniors to take more responsibility because I don't want youngsters to be told in every meeting that they must improve, so I want to set some examples for the new players," said Afridi.
The fifth and final match is in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. Pakistan and Sri Lanka alo play a Twenty20 in Abu Dhabi on Friday.