Pakistan fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi
has been ruled out of the Asia Cup, and the seven-match T20I series at home against England next month, because of his knee injury. He faces a race against time to be fit for the T20 World Cup in October, after being advised “four-six weeks rest” by the PCB’s Medical Advisory Committee.
Afridi sustained a right knee ligament injury
during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle last month, and had played no part in the current tour of the Netherlands despite being in the squad. Babar Azam said before the series that Shaheen would play no more than one ODI against the Netherlands
, with a view to having him fit for the Asia Cup, which begins on August 27. His absence comes as a significant blow to Pakistan’s tournament hopes.
The PCB said it expected Shaheen to be fit for the T20I tri-series in New Zealand ahead of the T20 World Cup. “I have spoken with Shaheen and he is understandably upset with the news, but he is brave young man who has vowed to come back strongly to serve his country and team. Although he has made progress during his rehabilitation in Rotterdam, it is now clear he will require more time and is likely to return to competitive cricket in October.”
With Pakistan’s best bowler out of action until so close to the T20 World Cup, the extent of his fitness for the event remains uncertain. In recent years Shaheen, 22, has established himself as Pakistan’s frontline bowler across all three formats, and alongside Babar Azam, Pakistan’s best known and most marketable cricketer. He has tended to play most of Pakistan’s internationals, often without being rested, but this is the first time he appears to have suffered a significant injury. He has 47 wickets in 40 T20Is, and played at least 25 internationals in all three formats since his debut in 2018.
Pakistan said Shaheen would stay with the squad in Netherlands to complete his rehabilitation, and a replacement for the Asia Cup would be announced shortly.
Pakistan begin their Asia Cup campaign against India on August 28 in Dubai. Shaheen had played a crucial role in Pakistan’s victory against India
in the 2021 T20 World Cup, which was the last time these two teams met. In that game, Afridi dismissed Rohit Sharma for a duck in the first over of the match, and bowled KL Rahul with the first ball of the third over. He picked up the Player of the Match award for his match-winning spell of 3 for 31 in four overs.