Mascarenhas has no fear with Afridi
Hampshire are without England Twenty20 international Danny Briggs for the Champions League T20, but captain Dimitri Mascarenhas says they have an ideal alternative in Shahid Afridi.
To participate in Sri Lanka, left-arm spinner Briggs, 21, delayed his wedding until this Thursday when the Royals have the second of two qualifying games in South Africa.
Pakistan leg-spinning all-rounder Afridi, 32, was due to play a second straight Friends Life t20 season for Hampshire this year until visa complications denied him. However, he is in their 15-man squad for the Champions League.
Afridi also featured in the World T20, reaching the semi-final stage where Pakistan lost to hosts Sri Lanka on Friday. Besides his spin option, Mascarenhas believes Afridi will give the Royals an extra batting dimension with a format strike-rate of 157.48.
“Briggsy’s going to be a blow for us, but, with Afridi coming into the squad, that pretty much takes that spot and gives us a little extra batting. So in that respect it’s not huge, but Briggsy will definitely be missed,” Mascarenhas told ecb.co.uk.
Hampshire’s first qualifier is tomorrow versus New Zealand champions Auckland at Centurion. On Thursday, the FLt20 holders meet Pakistan’s winners Sialkot Stallions at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
Mascarenhas, 34, has faced Auckland as recently as last winter in domestic T20 and trusts Afridi has the inside line on the Stallions. Those teams meet today at the Wanderers.
“I know a little bit about Auckland. I’ve played them quite a few times with my time in New Zealand with Otago,” Mascarenhas said. “The Stallions, I don’t know a lot about them but Afridi does so he’ll be able to pass on some of that knowledge.
“And also we get the opportunity to watch their game first. They play the day before we play Auckland so obviously we’ll get an opportunity to watch them and see how they go about it, which will be nice.”
With only one team from each of the two qualifying groups progressing to the competition proper, which runs from Saturday until October 28, Mascarenhas knows his side must begin strongly.
“We’ve got to have a fast start. You can’t afford to have a bad four or five overs because that could be your tournament over,” he added.
“We’re desperate to start well and hopefully, if we can win our first one, I think the boys will be very confident of winning the next one and going through.”
Mascarenhas has twice experienced the game's shortest form in South Africa, for England at the 2007 World T20 and for Rajasthan Royals in the 2009 Indian Premier League held there due to security issues in India. However, for most of his team-mates, the conditions will be new.
“It’s just going to be a case of adapting as fast as we possibly can,” said Mascarenhas, who won 20 one-day and 14 T20 international caps from 2007 to 2009.
“I think the teams that we’re coming up against are going to be pretty much in the same boat.”
Although Hampshire were domestic T20 champions in 2010, this week is their Champions League debut. Two years ago, no UK team took part in the competition due to it clashing with the end of the county season.
Mascarenhas, who played just once for Hampshire in all formats during 2010 due to an Achilles tendon injury, represented Otago in the 2009 tournament and is excited about his second coming.
“The boys missed out last time and unfortunately I was injured so I didn’t play a part in it,” he added.
“The opportunity to go to the Champions League, the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the world in Twenty20 cricket, the opportunity to maybe win some big money is huge and the boys are very excited.”
In late August, Mascarenhas defied a torn shoulder muscle to produce combined finals day figures of 4-31 as Hampshire beat Somerset and Yorkshire, the latter fellow FLt20 finalists who face Uva Next of Sri Lanka today and Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow in the CLT20 qualifier.
The seam-bowling all-rounder has not played since, missing the Clydesdale Bank 40 final triumph over Warwickshire, but expects to feature tomorrow.
“The boys have had a good week and a bit off and then we’ve been back in training,” he said.
“I’ve had a good few weeks off now just doing my rehab. I’ve been able to bat; that’s not been a problem.
“I’m just at the moment giving it every chance to heal before I start bowling and getting into the big stuff. I’m confident that I’ll be fine for the tournament, for the first game.”