Shahid Afridi apologises to fans for defeat against India but hopes Pakistan's dark days are over
Captain Shahid Afridi apologised to Pakistan's cricket fans after his side suffered defeat in their highly-anticipated semi-final against arch-rivals India at the World Cup.
By Telegraph staff and agencies 8:31AM BST 31 Mar 2011
Pakistan fell 30 runs short of clinching a place in Saturday's World Cup final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai after failing to chase down an achievable Indian total of 260 for nine.
"Sorry to our nation," Afridi said. "We tried our level best."
Afridi was gracious in defeat after the high-profile contest in which partisan feelings inevitably ran high.
"I want to congratulate the Indian cricket team and all the Indian nation for this great victory and wish them well for the final," he said. "In the end, they played better than us."
He acknowledged that a sloppy performance in the field had held Pakistan back Sachin Tendulkar was dropped four times on his way to 85 and criticised Pakistan's lacklustre run-chase, saying: "We didn't build partnerships and played some irresponsible shots."
However, Afridi eventually held the chance that ensured his pre-match prediction that Wednesday would not be the day when Tendulkar scored his 100th international hundred came true.
"Like I told you, Sachin didn't score a hundred."
Afridi was pleased with Pakistan's performance throughout the competition, and believes that the last weeks have shown that Pakistani cricket can recover from a year blighted by scandal.
"We have played really well in this whole tournament, and the boys did a great job. I am very proud to be captain of these guys."
"I'm proud of my team, the boys have really done a great job in this competition. We played as a unit and no one was expecting us to play cricket like this so I'm very happy as a captain," said Afridi.
"I think the youngsters really performed well. Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal played well and I hope they will do well in the future. I think we have played better than in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups," said Afridi.
Pakistan cricket has been under a cloud since last year's 'spot-fixing' scandal in England which led to bans for new-ball duo Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif as well as former Test captain Salman Butt.
"It has been a difficult 10 months for us," Afridi said. "I am thankful to my board officials and team management for backing me.
"We had a rickety team coming into the World Cup and considering that it has been a good performance."
As for Riaz, he added: "We didn't bowl well with the new ball, but because of his bowling we came back, otherwise I thought they would have scored about 300. It was a great bowling performance from him."
Riaz was selected after Pakistan felt they could not risk Shoaib Akhtar, meaning there was no fairytale farewell for the 'Rawalpindi Express', who had said he would retire from international cricket after the World Cup.
"We wanted Shoaib Akhtar to play but he was struggling," Afridi explained. "We could not play someone who is at 50 per cent or 60 per cent of peak fitness. Riaz played in his place and you have seen his performance."
The 25 year-old fast bowler finished with figures of 46 for 5, in stark contrast to his more experienced team-mate Umar Gul, whose eight erratic overs went for 69 runs.
India now face Sri Lanka, beaten by Pakistan in the group phase, in Saturday's final in Mumbai and Afridi could not pick a winner.
"Both teams are playing very good cricket, both teams are well balanced."