Curious case of Boom-Boom Shahid Afridi
We have all been witnesses of times when Shahid Afridi’s arrival on pitch meant mayhem on the cricket field. Fiery cuts, lusty pulls and brutally powered lofted shots by Afridi spelled end of many bowling careers. But with years passing by, the glitter of Afridi started to fade, bowlers around the world started working on his faulty batting techniques and his love to ‘sky’ every ball came handy for his dismissal.
Suddenly the inclusion of Afridi in the Pakistan line-up meant ‘a batsman less’ and the Pakistan side which has always battled with clashing egos and ‘larger than cricket’ players had another headache in the mostly non-performing Afridi.
While many players undergo ‘temporary loss of form’ during their career, this Pakistan’s blue-eyed all-rounder underwent such a serious loss of confidence, that he restricted himself to being called a leg-spinner with a bit of batting ability. (The only way he could have justified his selection, honestly!)
However, it’s a fact that the career graph of Shahid Afridi does not show the true picture of his talent.
From a 16-year-old boy (Really?), who plundered the Sri Lankan attack in Nairobi and made the fastest 100 in ODI cricket to the cricketer he is today, Afridi has been an under achiever (and not, under-age achiever!)
His career average of less than 24 in comparison to strike rate of 113 speaks the sorry story of his batting inconsistency.
Though at times Afridi showed shades of batting brilliance; the threat and spark of this menacing batsman were no where close to yesteryears. He lost his place in Pakistan Test squad which followed with his voluntary retirement from the longer version citing the need for greater focus on ODI and T20 cricket. He even went on to say that his body does not allow him to play in all the three formats! (Now you know the demerits of those age proofs!)
But with things in Pakistan cricket turning more than 360 degrees (Yeah, it’s possible with Pakistan cricket!), things have unexpectedly changed for good.
After endless bizarre events of hiring, firing, re-hiring and re-firing Captains (Trust me, I’ve lost counts!) by Pakistan Cricket Board; Afridi, just like every fellow cricketer in Pakistan, got what he thought always belonged to him- the captaincy.
With first being made the captain of T20 squad and then taking the control of the ODI unit too, Shahid Afridi has now transformed into a different avatar.
Never a first choice to captain Pakistan Cricket team, Afridi’s leadership has struck purple patch much sooner than anticipated. Though there has been no overnight transformation of fortunes for Pakistan cricket, the team under Afridi now looks more focused and relaxed. (Maybe the fact that they have one less dissatisfied cricketer helps!)
With two centuries in three matches in recently concluded Asia Cup, the return of ‘Batsman Shahid Afridi’ is arguably the only good news Pakistan cricket has seen in the recent past.
The ‘new-edition Afridi’ has now started taking his batting seriously again, and with a century against both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in three matches, Afridi has signaled his return in style!
While the first century against Sri Lanka was a brilliant display of counter-attacking cricket, the second against Bangladesh was a glimpse of his golden days when he thrashed the bowling attack with his explosive power. With these performances, not only now does Shahid Afridi feature thrice in the list of top ten fastest tons, but he also now holds the record of hitting maximum sixes in One Day International cricket.
With more than six months still to go for the World Cup in the sub-continent, Afridi’s return to form and new-found respect for bowlers can provide an enormous boost to Pakistan’s preparations and challenge.
Afridi once said in his interview that he wants to win the World Cup like Pakistan did in 1992 and if the bat of ‘Boom-Boom’ fires, World Cup will certainly bloom for Pakistan under his captaincy.
But will he be able to retain the captaincy by then?
You really need to be the foreteller of highest order to answer that!
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