Which Shahid Afridi fan are you? Do you drool over his incredible leg spin? Or sloppy return fielding? The 37 ball century snap collector? Or a lover of the famous six hitting spree? Fan of those arms wide open kinda celebration? Or a ranter of critics who hated the argumentative all-rounder?
There can’t be a one-sided assessment of one of cricket’s most explosive talents! Just not possible.
Afridi gave his team quickfire starts, critics heart-ache, rivals tense faces and ultimately, cricket- as many jewels as hate-plunged rhetorics. The man and his conduct demand both appreciation and some intense grilling.
Mere look at Afridi’s 20 year cricketing run reveals impressive statistics. 8000 ODI runs. A strike rate nearing 120 in ODIs. 450 plus international wickets. A record 351 ODI sixes. But his troubled relationships and confrontations with Waqar the coach, Misbah the Test captain who he often likened to sheep grazing off Pakistan-Afghanistan border also reveal a troubled soul.
Afridi bewilders you, amazes you. He inspires awe amidst some doubt
The Pathan who bowed out of international cricket today leaves fans with a bit of a scratchy head! How did this world-class all round talent end up with just 8000 One day runs, having played the game longer than any modern all round cricketer you’d know? Kallis, Flintoff, Pollock, Kapil Dev all have fewer games. But greater impact.
At the same time confusion only confounds the Afridi phenomenon.
How come a cricketer, who admitted being more of a bowler who could bat, end up with nearly 9000 plus international runs (both formats) and struck maximum ODI sixes? 403 lusty blows!
Should we congratulate him for fascinating highs or loath him for living far less to his potential?
World Cricket finds itself in a bit of a dilemma. The question surrounding Afridi is no longer just a Pakistani conundrum! It warrants incisive international enquiry. Was Shahid Afridi of Pakistan a glittery career ruined by politics? Or an amazing talent, more of a ‘can do anything’ who fell miserably short of his own promises?
At 37 years, it would be pure rubbish to brand Shahid Afridi unfit for international cricket. He could hop like a teenager on a first date. But perhaps one notes, his abilities to do wonders from both bat and ball were waning. Taxed increasingly, by the cesspool of politics that continues to flourish in Pakistan.
The last Afridi managed in excess of 600 in a calendar year was 2010. From 2011 onward, his batting form dipped. Even in international T20 duties. Most of those impressive 8000 plus ODI runs were gathered with exaggerated pummelling of bowlers up until 2008. But it was the leg-break specialist in the brave Pathan that lifted his game. Well into the final years. 126 of his 395 ODI wickets were snapped in last 5 years. That’s some performance for a man who was touted ‘well beyond his peak’ by Waqar and Shoaib in 2007.
Like a perfect John Le Carre’ mystery, Afridi’s international career existed like a thriller
It is heart-breaking to note that Shahid Afridi was often branded a selfish-cricketer. Had that been the case, he would have wanted to have gone out on a high, perhaps, scaling statistical collections of going beyond 9000 ODI runs and 400 ODI wickets.
Truth be told, those are privileges that only a Tendulkar can afford! Not Afridi, not in that part of the world where cricket dominates courtroom discussions as much as intra-team rivalry. But, there was never any predictability about Boom-Boom Afridi!
Pakistan have given him more venom than respect his craft commands. Remember in Afridi’s ebb, still lie magnificent outings such as the 3rd and 4th fastest century records; highs that he first garnered early on his career, when he pummelled Sri Lanka in 1996. Next stop would be Kanpur, 2005. Sachin, Dravid powered India were the hapless contenders this time. A ton was reached in 45 balls.
Despite Jayasuriya, McCullum and, Sehwag, Afridi’s batting reminded cricket that Pakistan was still in business
So much of today’s game has sadly receded to big hitting and mindless heaves. The Pollards, Russell’s, Corey Anderson’s are doing just that. But cutting across a spectacular run of the Lara’s and Sachin’s, Kallis’ and Ponting’s, Afridi’s fireworks kept up interest in Pakistan, often a talking point for either scathing politics and nosediving cricketing culture.
Afridi’s 400 plus sixes were a rejoicer. So revered was his big hitting that even popular Indian films have dedicated footages to mark his talent.
But even that did less to save a cricketer who often needed guidance and help but received none. In the years post the Inzimam, Anwar, Sohail and Shoaib era as Pakistan welcomed the Misbah and Younis Khan era, Afridi was the common link between nostalgia and high hopes. But he could sadly fit no room perfectly.
Whether for his own shortcomings and troubled mind, often seeming in search of peaceful dialogue and sense of direction, Afridi, it seemed had become everyone’s favorite punching bag. Its for this muddled reality that you can’t call him a ‘great’. And yet, cannot except to not hail his fine all round achievements.