Shahid Afridi has backed the new no-ball rule in ODIs, which awards a free hit to batsman after a front-foot no-ball. The rule, which had been earlier criticised by Afridi's team-mates Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, has been favoured by Afridi, who feels that it will make the game more entertaining and exciting.
Afridi also said that Shoaib and Asif would not face a problem with the new rule. "In modern cricket, Shoaib and Asif are two of the most disciplined and accurate bowlers I have seen in one-day internationals," Afridi told PTI. "They bowl very few no-balls. So I don't see them facing any problems.
"The new rule will infact make the other bowlers also more accurate and disciplined to avoid giving away bonus runs and that is a good thing as less wides and no balls means less time lost in a match."
Afridi added that innovations were necessary to make the game appealing to audiences. "The real cricket remains Test matches," he said. "But you have to keep on innovating with new rules to make the sport more popular and globalised." He pointed out that another new ICC rule that makes it mandatory for the umpires to change the ball after every 35 overs in an innings would favour the bowlers.
Afridi's comments came after the stance taken by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in dismissing Shoaib and Asif's apprehensions and stating that the new rules were debated by all ICC members before it decided to try them out.
"They have already been tested in domestic cricket in South Africa, Australia and England, said Zakir Khan, the PCB's director of operations. "So their results are well known.
"The concept behind the free-hit rule is to make the bowlers more disciplined and stop wastage of time. The quicker an innings is concluded it means more time to rest between innings for the teams and that is a good idea."