Shaheen Afridi had begun his Asia Cup 2023 campaign with a fiery display, putting the Nepal‘s batting lineup under instant pressure by claiming two wickets in the very first over of the innings. His menacing opening spell made it difficult for the Nepal batters throughout, who were tasked with chasing a mammoth 343-run target in the opening game of the tournament in Multan. However, as the Nepal innings approached the 10-over mark, an unsettling sight unfolded for Pakistan supporters.
Afridi, surrounded by the team’s doctor and physiotherapist, was seen walking off the field; while the nature of his departure was not immediately clear, the episode did raise concerns among the Pakistan fans.
Afridi had marked his return from a knee injury earlier this year during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in February. A pivotal figure in the Pakistan msquad, his presence is instrumental in the star-studded pace trio with Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf being the other two bowlers. Hence, the sight of his departure mid-match sparked apprehension, particularly with a crucial clash against arch-rivals India looming and the impending ODI World Cup adding to the stakes. A recurrence of injury, as experienced last year, could deal a significant blow to Pakistan’s aspirations.
The commentators on-air, Andy Flower and Waqar Younis also looked concerned as Afridi stood near the boundary line with the team doctor talking to him. “If there’s a problem with Afridi, they shouuld take him off. He’s a valuable asset for the Pakistan side,” Flower said on-air.
Waqar, meanwhile, looked more concerned about Afridi’s fitness; being a former fast bowler himself, the Pakistan legend insisted that it could indeed be a cause of concern if both, the physio and the doctor were surrounding the pacer.
“I don’t mind physio around a fast bowler at third man or fine leg. But when the doctor comes, that’s when it gets a little worrying. Shaheen has both of them around him,” said Waqar.
However, Shaheen did return to the field a few overs later, signifying that the pacer might have just left the play to get a breather. The left-arm pacer bowled five-successive overs in hot conditions in Multan, and may have suffered cramps.
Afridi’s tryst with injuries
This isn’t the first time injury woes have plagued Pakistan’s campaign. In the lead-up to the Asia Cup 2022, Shaheen Afridi was struggling with a knee injury that kept him out of the tournament. While he made a return in the T20 World Cup 2022, the injury resurfaced during the tournament’s decisive final. His inability to bowl more than 2.1 overs played a decisive role in England’s victory.