July 16, 2010

Mike Holmans

The case for Shahid Afridi's assault

Mike Holmans
Shahid Afridi launches a straight six during his short onslaught, Pakistan v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's, July 14, 2010
Attack is often the best form of defense  © Getty Images
Enlarge

The Pakistan v Australia Test has confirmed that I live in a different universe to the one Henry Blofeld inhabits. As I sat atop the Pavilion on Wednesday evening with the radio commentary on my earpiece, I heard him describe Shahid Afridi's cameo earlier on as “a quite disgraceful innings.”

In my world, “disgraceful” implies some breach of decency or morality, and I fail to see how an innings of thirty in ten minutes is a breach of either. Had he cover-driven the bowler rather than the ball or spent ten minutes audibly and obscenely haranguing the umpire, “disgraceful” would certainly be appropriate, but there is no moral turpitude in hitting sixes or holing out at mid-off. Anyone who thinks there is has, at least in my view, a badly malfunctioning moral compass. Where I come from, the worst you can say of Afridi's innings is that it was stupid or reckless or irresponsible.

Not that I would, as a matter of fact. I have already pleaded guilty to holding Shahid Afridi in high esteem – I am, if you like, a Boom Boom Boy biased towards seeing his actions in the best light – but I thought his innings an entirely rational choice in the circumstances obtaining at the time. I am perfectly willing to listen to an argument that it wasn't, but it had better be a convincing one.

When he came in, Pakistan were still 170 behind with only the tail to come. Five out of the top six had already failed. While Kamran Akmal's dismissal in particular was down to total incompetence on his part, two or three of the others had certainly succumbed to balls which were almost unplayable. The ball was swinging around and seaming, so that good balls were made dangerous and excellent balls close to lethal. Survival for any length of time demanded a solid defensive technique and a decent helping of luck (both of which Salman Butt had displayed).

Knowing that he is not a defensive batsman in the Rahul-Dravid class, Afridi would surely have realised that it was likely to be less than an hour before some holy terror of a ball arrived to end his innings. The question for him, therefore, was how best to use what little time he had.

Presumably the morally-approved choice on Planet Blofeld would have been to attempt to dig in and play cautiously, blocking here, nudging there and hitting the odd, very bad ball for four. If he did well, he could have hung around and scored 25 off 60 before the inevitable jaffa sprayed its juice over him. For most batsmen, it might well have been the only sound option.

But Boom Boom Afridi had another course open to him. He is one of the very few people who could try mounting an all-out assault like Ian Botham's at Headingley in 1981 or Nathan Astle's at Christchurch in 2002, and have a modest chance of success. Granted, reaching a hundred or two as they did was very unlikely, but in the circumstances Afridi was facing, where he could expect to score no more than about 25 anyway, reaching even 20 would leave his team no worse off. And if he could get 70 or more, he would have changed the game's momentum. Only if he failed completely would he have done real damage to his side's cause.

Had things been different, I might have much more reason to criticise. Were he batting ahead of the English or South African tails which contain the likes of Swann, Steyn, Morkel or Bresnan, there could well have been more mileage in trying to hang around. If Pakistan had been 17 behind rather than 170, digging in until they were about 20 ahead and then launching an assault would have been my recommendation.

But things were not different, and so I am entirely content with his choice.

And that, my friends, concludes the case for the attack.

RSS Feeds: Mike Holmans

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Mohammad Asad on (July 28, 2010, 17:08 GMT)

Still he was the 2nd highest scorer....... I think he did the right thing in that situation... Well done....

Posted by Umar Pervaiz on (July 20, 2010, 10:54 GMT)

Excellent Article.. Afridi is an Excellent Player.. And the innings he played of thirty odd runs was not disgraceful..

Posted by Sarwar Naqvi on (July 19, 2010, 16:52 GMT)

Afridi is simply an attacking player. If and when he goes on the defensive, he fails. So it is best for him to play his game - attack all the time. However, choosing him as captain was wrong because one does need to play by example for the sake of one's team. Afridi does not have that temperament. He should play at number 5 or 6 with SOME patience - hitting out in his very first over was really not the thing to do especially with so many more runs remaining. Also, I think he should have announced his retirement from test cricket AFTER completing his tour of England. However, he SHOULD indeed continue to play ODIs and Twenty20's. I do wish him luck.

Posted by mohammad on (July 18, 2010, 14:06 GMT)

i read some of the ariticles send by diefferent freinds.

but i have my own idea. iam very unhappy at his decesion of retirement from the test matches, any more.

he should stand as captain, he should lead the side, he is recently the most experienced member of the team. so, he should not left his side alone. for the sake of country respect he should play test cricket as it needs to be play. only hitting the ball with close eyes is not a professional game

Posted by Tahir on (July 17, 2010, 6:01 GMT)

afridi have abiliti to stay but slector and management wrong

Posted by Shaq on (July 16, 2010, 23:43 GMT)

Exactly! No point in trying to be someone you are not! If the only way you know how to bat is to attack (and we have seen enough over the last 15 yrs to know that), then you are better off going with your style of batting. Its an all together different debate that PCB has killed Pakistani cricket!

I am surprised cricinfo let you put this article up! :)

Thanks!

Posted by Fit_for_the_Test on (July 16, 2010, 22:47 GMT)

Absolutely invalid argument.

This "Oh. I'm sorry, but this is the way I play. Take it or leave it" excuse is overdone and baseless. Tell me, if Hilfenhaus and Bollinger (you can hardly call them batsmen) can grind it out and fight, why cant Afridi? This vicious unplayable pitch was pretty much the same for them too.

After all this, Afridi gets out in the same way in the second innings. Slog to deep midwicket in the fifth ball of his innings!! Are you kidding? Fifth ball!??

Posted by Shafiq Hamid on (July 16, 2010, 22:42 GMT)

The Cricketing talent that Pakistan possess has never been in any doubt – ask any of the cricket playing countries and they will tell you how envious they are of what Pakistan keeps coming up with – Umar Akmal, Mohamed Amer are just some of the more recent finds.

The problem in Pakistan is with Cricket administration – Mr. Zardari (less said about him the better!) is happy with Ijaz Butt to run PCB and poor Mr. I Butt would struggle to run a bath! Politics being involved in sports has never been a good idea and never will.

In order to qualify running a cricket board – you either MUST have some common sense or extensive modern day cricketing background. A little of both would be ideal.

Mr. Izaj but very clearly doesn’t have common sense (or any sense) and having played a few matches in the late 1950’s doesn’t help him at all. He is clearly arrogant and just wants a position of authority and has no love for the game.

Afridi did the right thing and should have never listened to brainl

Posted by Sam on (July 16, 2010, 19:21 GMT)

30 runs of 10 balls or so is not an assault ..It's a storm in a teacup !!!

Posted by Nimz on (July 16, 2010, 19:13 GMT)

Dear sir, I welcome your comments in light boom boom's strategy to occupying the crease in the first innings. It certainly isn't in the conventional approach that one would find in the (hypothetical) Englishmans guide to Test Match cricket. However, to see the look on the Aussie's face as Watson disappeared to all parts of the park was a truely momentous occasion. However, his second innings was far from attractive and the root question beg's....what is he doing captaining a Pakistan TEST team when he can't follow the Test match discipline. I have great addmiration for the fact he has gracefully bowed out but I don't think it was right for him to be in this predicament. I would have loved it though if BOOM BOOM did find Test match cricket to his liking....bringing back the good old days of West Indian brash hitting! Good luck to the Afridi which ever way he decides to hold his bat!

Comments have now been closed for this article