England tour will test mettle of star-studded coaching panel: Shahid Afridi

Khalid Hussain
Former cricketer Shahid Afridi. Photo: AFP

Last Saturday Shahid Afridi tweeted that he had tested positive for Covid-19. In the next few days, a rumour mill began with speculations about him suffering from a critical infection which later turned into darker rumours that he has passed away.

"May God protect others from the wrath of social media (Allah sub ko social media say bachai)," Afridi told The News in a telephonic conversation. 

"I don’t know how such rumours spread. I’m getting hundreds of calls and messages from concerned well-wishers from all over the world. To all of them my message is that I’m recovering from Covid-19 and am already looking forward to returning to my social work," he said.

To prove that he was now fully back in his element, Afridi even agreed to answer my questions on the current state of Pakistan cricket and on the upcoming tour of England.

“For Pakistan, every tour of England is very important,” he said. “Even though the focus these days is on coronavirus, once the series against England will begin, it will become a talking point.

“So I must say that even in current circumstances the tour carries a lot of importance for the Pakistan team,” he stressed.

Pakistan have announced an extended 29-man squad for the tour of England where Pakistan will play three Tests and an equal number of Twenty20 Internationals during July-August.

READ: Big names working together can cause issues, Shahid Afridi on new coaching roles

Earlier this month, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) roped in former captain Younis Khan as batting coach and legendary legspinner Musthaq Ahmed as spin bowling coach for the tour of England.

“It’s a good decision,” said Afridi. “I mean both Younis Khan and Mushy bhai (Mushtaq) are legendary players. Both of them have excellent records in England.”

However, Afridi said that the real worth of Pakistan’s big 15-man squad of officials spearheaded by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq will be seen if the team finds the going tough against England.

“It’s easy to coach a team that’s winning but the real mettle of the coaches is seen once their players are unable to give their best. So we have to see how our coaches perform under pressure. Personally I believe they would do well.”

About his own professional career, the 40-year-old Afridi said that he is looking forward to continue featuring in T20 leagues for the next one or two years.

“Cricket is a passion for me and I think I can play (in T20 leagues) a year or two. But let’s see how it goes.”

At the moment, though, Afridi is focused on his growing career as a social worker.

At the helm of his Shahid Afridi Foundation, Lala has been travelling all the nooks and corners of the country carrying ration bags for the needy.

“Apart from the pain and inconvenience it caused me, the worst thing about the (Covid-19) infection is that it has halted my role in the campaign to help my needy countrymen in these tough times. That’s why I’m hoping to regaining my strength and returning to the social work.”

About his infection, Afridi said that the initial two, three days were really tough.

“It happened suddenly. One day I was fine and the next I was really down. I had fever. My head hurt. I had difficulty breathing. I couldn’t sleep. There was no body pain but it seemed there was no strength left in it.

“But thankfully a combination of rest, steam and ginger tea has helped me get better. Insha-Allah, I’ll be back in action soon.”

England tour will test mettle of star-studded coaching panel: Shahid Afridi