In just about a couple of hours from now, Shahid Afridi will turn 33. People may contest his age, but we shouldn’t be bothered. This piece will succinctly shed-light on his odyssey in the game of cricket, as a tribute to him. Hailing from the fierce tribe of the Khyber Agency, Afridi showed his affinity for the game in his salad days in Karachi. His frenzy for the game in general and love for Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir, in particular gave him the impetus to take big strides. The culmination point of his efforts was obviously playing for Pakistan at the stage that matters. I need not delve into how he managed to land in Nairobi from the West Indies. However, the unknown rookie pashtun dazzled the cricketing world on a bright sunny day at Nairobi. Much to the surprise of the Sri Lankans, a leg spinner , playing his 2nd ODI was sent-in at number 3. I wish that I had witnessed the carnage, for the 16-year old Afridi pulverized the best in the business. He conjured a record of scoring the quickest century in international cricket (37 balls). The record stands as of this writing! The innings did a colossal damage , and was adorned with 11 sixes and 6 fours. The tally of sixes remained a record till 2008, when Xavier Marshall broke the record. A leg –spinner became a big hitter. Soon, he featured as an opener in ODI’s regularly. As back as 1st November, 1996, Afridi scored a 37-ball 66 vs Zimbabwe as an opener. Afridi became well-known for his six hitting and brisk scoring. This is why he has the best strike-rate , and the most number of sixes in ODI’s (298). Moreover, he has the most number of international sixes.
I am trying to avoid going into his career statistics. I have plenty of conspicuous performances to jot down, but those are already well-documented. However, still there is a need to highlight a few instances. As aforementioned, the Nairobi-carnage virtually turned him from a leggie to an opener, but things are different 17 years later. In his early days , he was used as a part-timer, but proved way too effective at times; one must recall his bowling feats in the 1997’s C&G series; his test debut vs Australia; 3-fer in the Chennai-test and many more since then. As a matter of fact, he has taken 155 ODI scalps in the last 6 years, which are inclusive of 6, 5 wicket hauls. Currently, he happens to be the 3rd highest wicket taker for Pakistan in ODI, after Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. His Test record is impressive to say the least; his contributions in the longer formats have been profound, be it his 141 at Chennai or his 3/13 at Bengalore in 2005. The fact that Pakistan won the ICC World T20 suffices the need not to talk more about his meritorious services in the shortest form of the game.
Afridi’s career is on my fingertips; and I am proud on it, simply because he has served my country for more than 16 years, not only as a cricketer. As long as he is not found guilty of tarnishing the image of this great country, I will love and admire him. Cricket is not a dime a dozen; he is going through a torrid time_ hope his 34th year usher-In a productive period!