February 23, 2010

Pakistan

A night at Afridi World

Andrew Hughes


The deep-conditioning and exfolliating worked. The big screen loves me © Getty Images
Enlarge
 

Saturday’s Twenty20 game was an intriguing desert clash between England and a Shahid Afridi XI at a venue that could have been renamed Afridi World for the night. Among the Aztec hats, carnival masks, fluffy toys and inflatable camels there was an abundance of banners and placards, and a brief survey revealed that 99% of them referenced Mr Boom. His appearances on the big screen (approximately once every 30 seconds) sparked waves of jubilation, and the entire occasion seemed to be building to one point: the moment when the man himself arrived at the crease. Time divided neatly into two periods: BA (Before Afridi) and AA (After Afridi).

One of the few banners not proclaiming Shahid-love exhorted the Pakistan players to “captain like Imran, bowl like Wasim and Waqar and bat like Aamer, Saeed and Ramiz”. But until Abdul Razzaq entered the arena, their batting had been more Mr Bean than Mr Raja.

British politician Dennis Healey had a habit of referring to people who behaved foolishly as “silly billies”. This phrase popped back into my head as I watched Imran Nazir set about the task of laying a solid platform for Pakistan’s run chase. The first ball was hit stylishly down the ground for four. The second was blocked. The third was dispatched swiftly to the palms of third man with a mighty forehand smash.

His opening partner proved no more resilient. Soon after Nazir’s departure, Imran Farhat hit the ball straight up in the air and watched the white sphere soar into the night sky, like a wide-eyed child amazed by a firework.

It got worse.

“Don’t do it, Umar!” pleaded Ramiz Raja in the commentary box as the younger Akmal tried to hit Swann out of the ground in exactly the same way that Afridi hadn’t. Umar did it anyway and was caught where Ramiz said he would be. Silly billies.

Once again, the hard work fell to Fawad Alam, the slightly built innings-repairman, who it seems is permanently on call, and Razzaq, who did pretty much what Nazir and Co had tried to do, but better and harder and with more swagger. His mighty timberwork bludgeoned England to the ground and supplanted Kevin Pietersen’s earlier biffery.

Pietersen, of course, provides more entertainment value than just his knack with the willow. He is an absolutely hilarious runner between the wickets, mainly because he does not regard it as necessary to notify his colleague of his intentions. He first collided with Trott when he took the wrong lane, and then a few balls later ran him out. He bats like a magician but he runs like a sprinter with a hearing problem who can’t be sure the starter has fired his pistol but isn’t taking any chances.

But it was Pakistan’s day and though they didn’t bat like Ramiz or bowl like Waqar, they do have an Imranesque captain in the wings, even though technically the little “c” on the scoreboard was next to someone else’s name. But all that Urdu you heard via the stump microphone emanated from Afridi. He was busy, enthusiastic, always on the move. In two or three years, his team-mates may find it annoying. For now, though, his energy can still jolt his team out of lethargy and he sets off little sparks of belief wherever he goes. Welcome to Afridi World.

RELATED LINKS

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

RSS Feeds: Andrew Hughes

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Nain Tara on (March 9, 2010, 9:47 GMT)

BOOM BOOM AFRIDI !!!! Wel though he eats cricket balls but anyways v still love him.Crowds will always be his in the ground.

Posted by gopal on (February 27, 2010, 22:34 GMT)

Shahid Afridi is still a young budding cricketer who hasn't still grown old with time.

Posted by Invictus on (February 27, 2010, 9:27 GMT)

Afridi is the most over-rated cricketer of all times. He rarely score runs, his avg is like one 50/year. He's got like 4 100's in 300 ODI's he's played. He take a few wickets sometimes...thts all he does in cricket field...

How does he makes the team is the bigger question rather thn "Should he be made captain? ...

Post is open for ridicule...but it won't change my opinion... :)

Posted by Amana on (February 25, 2010, 16:03 GMT)

All I gotta say is that Afridi is over-rated.

Posted by Waseem Sajid on (February 25, 2010, 11:59 GMT)

Now I come to current Pak Team. I have been watching cricket since i was a young 6,7 years kid. and its about 17,18 years now. I always expirianced when ever Pak team emerged as power in World Cricket they 1stly faced same problem they are facing right now. And I am sure that dark night in pak cricket is near about its end. The sun will rise very soon. INSHALLAH...... PAKISTAN ZINDA BAAD

Posted by Anti on (February 25, 2010, 10:21 GMT)

Well, Afridi is just a pinch hitter. He cant take the responsiblity to make his team win.

Even if he remains as a Captian or become a Captian of sinking ship, doesnt matter, pakistan cricket is all in the hell now.. No World cup hosting, no home series. .. its sad for them

Posted by mahmood ali on (February 25, 2010, 9:56 GMT)

afridi is very important player i think he is great if he come in no 1 as like as opener he is very effected for paki,s

Posted by fahim on (February 24, 2010, 19:05 GMT)

No matter what , aggression required for the T20 for pakistan can only be delivered by Afridi... rest of the team will come togather if pakistan is given chance.. the surprise element which makes cricket by chance can only be associated to team like pakistan.. lets see once again in may2010 T20 though i believe this will be different then other T20s given the Windies conditions and pitches

Posted by Asif on (February 24, 2010, 15:05 GMT)

Disagree ...I think Afridi should cap all three teams....we have no other options.

Posted by Rizwan on (February 24, 2010, 8:40 GMT)

Still believe Afridi is the wrong man...Malik is the ideal captain...he is astute and tactically aware...Afridi's enthusiam will soon wane...and he doesn't play tests...winning 20/20 matches only is child's play...we need to win Test matches!

Comments have now been closed for this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

All articles by this writer