New age September 27, 2007

Afridi halts the shots

I, for one, am disappointed with Afridi

I have always supported Shahid Afridi. His wild talent holds a mesmeric attraction. I have called for his inclusion in the Test team and his elevation to the one-day vice-captaincy. If harnessed, I have contended, Afridi could be a more consistent match-winner for Pakistan.

Nonetheless, he has as many critics as he has fans. For a while he threatened to confound his critics with a rare consistency with bat and ball. But something popped in Afridi's brain about 18 months ago and he has never recovered.

First Afridi "retired" from Test cricket, the weight of national expectation had become too burdensome. When he returned, he had developed a worrying reluctance to bat up the order, claiming the he was now focusing on his bowling. This focus has produced distinct improvement but his batting has declined. The reluctance to bat at the top remains, which is a worrying sign for a senior and experienced cricketer who should really be accepting greater responsibility.

Yes, Afridi was man of the tournament in the ICC World Twenty20 but his batting was a disappointment. Now Boom Boom has concluded he cannot fast and play cricket against South Africa. These are not the actions of the champion that his fans have believed him to be.

I, for one, am disappointed with Afridi. I worry that all of this betrays an underlying lack of confidence in his own ability or at least a lack of willingness to apply his mind in the way that the bigger challenges in international cricket require.

Unless Afridi regains his purpose, Pakistan must write him out of their Test script. He cannot command a place as a Test legspinner ahead of Danish Kaneria. Indeed, his real value in all forms of cricket is as an allrounder, and even if he sees himself as a bowling allrounder he must not ignore the fact that batting is an important element of his role. Concentrating on bowling is an insufficient excuse for an allrounder to neglect his batting.

Afridi, hero of millions, must rethink his approach. His descent down the batting order is alarming. His reluctance to play Test cricket is worrying. If he fears for his place he should fight for it. An Afridi batting cameo can turn a match but without that string to his bow he cannot pull on heartstrings. And without that string to his bow there is serious doubt over his longevity.

I hope Ramadan helps Afridi return with the determination to fulfill his proper role in Pakistan cricket. Don't halt the shots Shahid.

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