The “They can’t play him” trend was back in fashion after Shaheen Shah Afridi once again rattled India’s batters in the Asia Cup Group A match in Pallekele. Shaheen dismissed India captain Rohit Sharma (11) and Virat Kohli (4) cheaply with the new ball and then came back to get the prized scalp of Hardik Pandya (87) and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja (14) to finish with figures of 4/35. The match couldn’t be completed as rain washed out Pakistan‘s chase but there was enough evidence that the Pakistan pacers had the upper hand over the Indian batters. All 10 Indian wickets were taken by the Pakistan pace trio of Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah.
The dominance of Pakistan was such that “they can’t play him” started trending on social media. It first came into being after Afridi ran through India’s top-order during the T20 World Cup in 2021. Former Pakistan Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and former pacer Wahab Riaz used the phrase on their respective X (formerly Twitter) handles.
The Pakistan fans would be hoping for a repeat during the Super 4 match against India on Sunday. Ahead of the crucial encounter, Pakistan keeper-batter Mohammad Rizwan was asked about the same and he came up with a classy response.
“Our fast bowlers have played a crucial role in taking us to the No.1 spot. And the three fast bowlers we are talking about, they are not just going to pose difficulty for the Indian top-order but for every team. They are gifted bowlers. And if you look at our bench strength, that is also very good and that is why we have risen to the top,” he told a group of journalists when asked about the “they can’t play him” trend.
‘India have top bowlers, they will challenge us’: Rizwan
The Pakistan batters did not get an opportunity to bat in the group match against India but Rizwan said they have their plans ready against India’s top-class bowling line-up led by Jasprit Bumrah.
“Their batters also haven’t faced our bowlers a lot. They lost early wickets but they put close to 270 on the board. Similarly, we will also have plans when their bowlers will come up against us. India have a good bowling attack, some of the world’s best who will obviously challenge us. But as professionals, we should be ready with the answers,” Rizwan added.
India opener Shubman Gill also touched on a similar point when talking about India’s struggles against the Pakistan bowlers. “We don’t play against Pakistan as often as we do against some other teams. We all know that their bowling attack is quite good and when you don’t play against such attacks often it makes a bit of difference in main tournaments,” he said in the pre-match press conference in Colombo.
Asked about the expectations of the fans for the match against India, Rizwan said: “Pakistanis want us to win and Indians want us to lose. This is natural. This is just the love for the respective countries. As far as we are concerned, we have put in a lot of hard work for the last couple of years. The result is showing now. We will give our best on Sunday.”