Karachi, Jun.4 (ANI): Shoaib Malik's inclusion in the 15-man squad for the Asia Cup just days after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) lifted the one-year ban imposed on him may have surprised many, but he was able to make it to the national squad only after he swore before skipper Shahid Afridi that he would completely transform himself into a 'team man.'
Rejecting media reports that Malik was included in the squad under pressure from various political and other influential quarters, Afridi said Malik was a talented cricketer whom the team needed.
"I don't take any pressure from anyone. The thing is that Shoaib Malik is a talented cricketer and there is no doubt about it. The team needs him. But I've told him clearly that I'm supporting you and I need your support for the sake of the team," The News quoted Afridi, as saying.
The swashbuckling all rounder also revealed that he had a 'heart-to-heart' with Malik before the meeting with the national selectors and PCB chairman Ijaz Butt to pick the team for the Asia Cup.
"Malik has assured me of his complete support. He sounded really serious about making a successful international return and wants to help me in my efforts to put the team back on track," Afridi said.
"I have no personal grudges against anybody including Malik. The thing is that I just want players who can contribute towards the team cause. I want to raise our performance graph and that can only happen through a team effort," he added.
Afridi also rubbished reports regarding pacer Shoaib Akhtar failing a fitness test conducted just a day before the team was to be announced.
"Who said he (Akhtar) failed the fitness test? We have received reports from experts that he is fully fit after which we have decided to recall him," he said.
Afridi, 30, backed the selectors' decision to include Akhtar in the Sri Lanka bound 15-man squad, saying the speedster would add more firepower to Pakistan's bowling line up.
"It's true that Shoaib has been out of action for some time, but I'm sure that he still has a lot of cricket left in him. We can field him in our big matches which means he will get enough time to recover and maintain his form and fitness. I'm happy that he is back," said Afridi. (ANI)