Middle order October 24, 2006

Afridi must rediscover his boom boom

Shahid Afridi is as much of an enigma as he ever was

Shahid Afridi is as much of an enigma as he ever was. Only a special cricketer can set pulses racing in the way Afridi does. When he succeeds he is audacious. But when he fails he is abysmal. Last year he showed the riches that his aggression, if controlled a little, could deliver for Pakistan cricket. His success was also as a result of the backing he received from coach and captain.

Yet sometime around Pakistan's tour to Sri Lanka, the boom boom went out of Afridi. He prematurely retired from Test cricket and since his return has failed to make an impact. What has gone wrong?

The tour of England was an unhappy one for Afridi. Inzamam held him back too late in the order for him to influence the innings when he had previously been a middle order stick of dynamite. My view on Afridi is that he seems to be a player who does respond to responsibility and this affront to his achievements set him back. By the time the one-day series came around Afridi was off form and the pitches were perfectly unsuited to his brand of bravado.

For these reasons I don't believe this summer's failures are an adequate indication of Afridi's value to the team. In India and in the West Indies the pitches will be tailor made for Afridi to rediscover his boom boom. It's what the specatators want and I'm sure television producers won't complain either.

But Afridi does need to change one thing. I agree with him that going in too late in the order is a waste of his unique talent. He does, however, need to be mentally prepared to go in anywhere between number 1 and 7 depending on the state of the game. This is not an unreasonable scenario for a mature cricketer. Afridi's oft stated request to bat at number 6 has the ring of an unnecessary obsession--and Afridi is a man of instinct not obesession.

All Pakistan fans--and many from other countries--need their dose of Boom Boom. He has looked a distracted cricketer for many months. One blitz will turn that distraction into joy.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here