'Eating 8 kg mutton every day': Wasim Akram furious over Pakistan players' fitness after defeat to Afghanistan
Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram lashed out at Babar Azam's team after the former champions lost to lower-ranked Afghanistan in a sensational World Cup 2023 result in Chennai on Monday, saying the fitness lavels of the players left a lot to be desired. Pakistan suffered their third successive defeat in the tournament as their semi-final hopes took a huge blow.
It was also Pakistan's first defeat to Afghanistan in ODI cricket in the 8th meeting between the two sides. Fifties from Babar Azam, Abdullah Shafique and handy knocks from Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan propelled Pakistan to 282 in 50 overs on a tricky pitch in Chennai and it looked like Pakistan had enough on the board.
However, much to the surprise of quite a few, Afghanistan chased down the target with an over to spare and 8 wickets in hand. Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran tore into the Pakistan bowling attack that looked low on energy on the big day in Chennai. The two batters added 130 for the opening stand and knocked the wind out of Pakistan's sails.
The shoulders began to drop in the Pakistan camp and captain Babar Azam cut a frustrated figure as Pakistan were shoddy on the field. The out-fielding was a shocker as Pakistan players conceded extra runs to already inspired Afghanistan batters. Shaheen Afridi came up with blunders along the boundary rope. So did Hasan Ali. There were overthrows and fielders not being able to back up made Pakistan's efforts unworthy of an ICC tournament. Ibrahim Zadran was dismissed for 87 but Rahmat Sah (77) and Hashmatulah Shahidi (48) steered Afghanistan past the finish line for a historic win.
"It's embarrassing. Just 2 wickets, 280-290 is a big score. The pitch is wet or not wet. Fielding was... you look at the fitness levels. We have been discussing on this show that there has been no fitness test for the last 2 years. If I take the players' individual names, they won't like it. It looks like they are eating 8 kg of mutton every day," Akram told A Sports after Pakistan's 8-wicket defeat.
Akram also said that the Pakistan players did not like the fitness tests that were place when they were handled by former head coach Misbah-ul-Haq but those tests helped the team do the basics right.
"There should be tests. Professionally, you are playing for your country, you are being paid. I am with Misbah. When he was coach, he had that criteria, players hated him. But, it worked for the team. Fielding is all about fitness, and it shows on the field.
"Now we have come to a stage, where we will pray, do ifs and buts, wait for other teams to lose, then we can reach the semi-finals," he added.
Afghanistan players celebrated the landmark victory with a lap of hounour at the MA Chidambaram Stadium as fans had turned out in numbers, supporting the two sides.
Pakistan will next face South Africa on Friday in Chennai while Afghanistan travel to Pune to face Sri Lanka on Monday.