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July 15, 2013

Afridi speaks the magic word

Kamran Abbasi
When he gets going, it usually ends in a match-winning performance  © WICB Media
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"Owowwahwowwahwow!"

I think that's what he said? Shahid Afridi's return to international colours is hard to describe but combinations of "Wow" and "Wah" will do nicely.

Dare to dismiss him as a fluke, a man who sometimes gets lucky playing his game of craps, and he returns with a champion's response. Afridi has too many records and Man-of-the-Match medals to his name. He scored the fastest hundred in one-day internationals, and helped his country win a T20 World Cup. Afridi is no fluke. He is flawed and infuriating but there is magic in those Pathan eyes and wrists.

Seventy six off 55 balls and bowling figures of 7 for 12 are stuff of school or park cricket, when a decent player crashes the party. You might dream of such a performance in an international but you would laugh at yourself for imagining it. That is the thrill of Afridi. The highs are living a daydream.

West Indies aren't the strongest team in the world, but they seem ever on the cusp of a resurgence. At Providence Stadium they had Pakistan in ruin on a pitch that Misbah-ul-Haq described as almost impossible to bat on. Misbah, a man of his words, blocked to 52 runs in 121 balls. West Indies, thrashers all, struggled to 98 in 257 balls. Any method was destined to fail except, and not surely by providence alone, Afridi's.

Afridi, dropped from the Champions Trophy, has been bristling to prove the world wrong. Statements, tweets, and any manner of posturing after the South Africa tour have sent a strong message that he wants to go out with a boom by playing the next World Cup. In fairness, his batting was a treat in that South Africa series too. But he was judged on his bowling, which was harsh, as the series wasn't one for spinners.

When international wonders like Imran Farhat and Shoaib Malik made the Champions Trophy squad, and Pakistan travelled without an allrounder, it was hard to understand the logic of Afridi's exclusion. Why was Afridi less deserving of one more throw of the dice?

One explanation is that with Afridi there is no certainty about what comes next. The only certainty is that when he performs, it is usually a match-winning exhibition. On this occasion, his determination to return to the team and contribute has been impressive. How long will it last? Nobody knows, not even him. But when Shahid Afridi is on song the magic word on everybody's lips is owowwahwowwahwow!

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (July 18, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

in every sports there were a few people who actually change that sports frm basic to advance and they were called inventor afridi is one of them. actually he change the game of cricket frm tuk tuk to entertainment sports. well done lala and well come to the team.

Posted by vishwa_a on (July 17, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

@alarky: Let us not compare Afridi and Sachin. Sachin is a world class Cricket batman who has many great fans like Ponting, Don Bradman and Lara. Afridi is like a Baseball player trying to to hit a Cricket ball, and that probably entertains few people but that doesn't make it great. Please, start watching WWE for entertainment. Sachin never had to make a claim like "I am still better than lots of players" (search this story in Cricinfo).

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 22:09 GMT)

I Love the spirit of Lala.A fantastic cricketer taking pride in the way he plays,everything he does.In fact,the way he plays and enjoys the game is rarely seen in todays cricket.I see passion in those eyes,a child like enjoyment and celebration on a dismissal.Well that's a better way of playing this game.He's brought a lot of entertainment to the game and needs to be respected by his board.He deserves much better treatment.Come on Lala!! <Love from India>

Posted by rick333 on (July 16, 2013, 15:04 GMT)

"Statements, tweets, and any manner of posturing after the South Africa tour have sent a strong message that he wants to go out with a boom by playing the next World Cup." I find these lines very strange. That is all a player has to do earn a call up in Pakisthan? Does one not go back to domestic fixtures, grind and prove himself to earn a call up?

Posted by chitti_cricket on (July 16, 2013, 14:37 GMT)

Abbasi sir, we all know Afridi, he is only a utility player, most of the times he should be considered only a bowler who can bat a bit and should be a # 6 or 7 batsman and if situation demands some times should be promoted up in the order. That is all. But Pakistan cricket treated him like an opening batsman and expected lot from him in batting department. Afridi himself many times stated that. He truly knows his abilities and a good honest man. Expectation ruined his career and of course the internal politics that always Pakistan teams carried with them. Imran must have been the best captain Pak ever produced but this guy was also a better leader. But always he had have to carry a fractured team under him and could not deliver the results expected. Remember how he conducted a mediocre Pak team in last world cup. My honest statement is even Imran cannot help current crop of players coz they lack both technique and will to excel at this highest level.

Posted by alarky on (July 16, 2013, 14:35 GMT)

As I have said before, Afridi's story in world cricket is very similar to Sachin Tendulkar's. They both started very early and became too loved by their bosses and fans, hence, they were allowed to get away with much more than their colleagues. And these extraordinary opportunities allowed them to look better than they really are. Their stature as practitioners of the sport is good, but their fans love them so much that they overrate them. The main difference between both is that when Afridi comes off, sure bet it is for Pkistan's cause. But when SRT comes off, as his records show, it is mainly for himself - some people feel it is due to delliberate selfishness. Though they sometimes provide plausible evidence, I am prepared to give SRT the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 14:15 GMT)

shahid afridi is an entertainer..without afridi i will feel bored to watch pak cricket

Posted by voyager on (July 16, 2013, 12:55 GMT)

Afridi had lost his tuning as bowler for sometime. Dropping him helped him regain it. For batting he should practice in what he is good at.... 'hitting' and reduce his error percentage. Eschewing strokes will not work for him....

Posted by UNIVERSAL_CRICKETER on (July 16, 2013, 12:35 GMT)

Since the day Afridi Clobbered the Sri Lankans to fastest century in 1996...there was never a doubt about his Monstrous talent....but his temperament & ability to build inning was always questionable....biting the ball...striking a spectator...temporary retirements... blatantly scuffing up the pitch.....fighting with team-mates...& inconsistency have made his performances a fluke...with little bit more patience he could have been in the league of Sehwag, Gayle, Gilchrist, Hayden......a pure Pashtun..

Posted by MelbourneMiracle on (July 16, 2013, 11:58 GMT)

BOOM BOOM! There's no better performer than him when he's on peak. One of the greatest entertainers of the game. Respect! From Sri Lanka

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 11:38 GMT)

Kamran Abbasi, Shahid Afridi is exactly what is wrong with pakistan cricket." Respect the game. not the player because player's respect comes from the game". we have a gravy yard of players who never got chance because of people like Afridi,Inzi, etc etc.

you don't need a player who play 1-2 inning against weak opposition and then give catching practice for next 40 games. look at his record. he is what brought pakistani cricket to its knees. we need people who play every time not once in a blue moon.

and please have some respect for the game. and players like Ricky pointing who knew exactly when they are playing for them self and not for their country. and left.

Mark my words he will dispoint and kick you in the gut when you expect him to perform becoz thats what he is good at.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 11:25 GMT)

Honestly speaking, I was not a big fan of Afridi as I always measure the level of a player that how serious is he in his approach. I always found that Afridi was non serious about his cricket and never was in search of consistency in his career. Immense talent but avoid hard work. But then realized that it is law of nature. A capable person in certain field mostly not a hard worker. A hard worker is most of the time not very talented. A rare combination of hard work and talent, makes that person "A genius". With immense talent Afidi has, if he works hard, the way he did in the last some months, he could have been a genius. I have seen a change in his thinking in the recent past. In one interview I heard him saying that if someone responsible in PCB called on me and tried to investigate why I am not performing then I would have told him that send me to acedemy than to tours. This change in thinking can make him a genius.

Posted by the_indian_guy on (July 16, 2013, 11:05 GMT)

Afridi is definitely one heck of a performer on his day. Only he has to be more consistent w.r.t. other 10 players of his team to be able to retain his place in the side consistently.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

Is it the best international performance by an individual ever ?

Posted by natural.honey on (July 16, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

afridi is the best..............................

Posted by zarasochozarasamjho on (July 16, 2013, 10:13 GMT)

For those supporting Afridi, may I suggest that you look at his figures before commenting. Kamran should have known that his average score in the last 10 ODIs was a mere 17, with a highest score of 87 where Afridi did NOT complete his job and Pakistan lost. And yes, he has been a great ODI bowler. But he took NIL wickets in the last 6 ODIs. But of course if selection is not to be based on merit, which is usually the case anyway with PCB, then Afridi qualifies to be in the team.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 9:57 GMT)

Shahid Afridi has proved that he is still the best all rounder of the world.On a wicket where the best spinner of the world Sunil narine could not takhe a wicket+Saeed ajmal world No. 2 Spinner did not take any wicket and Mohammed Hafeez was also wicket less Shahid Afridi showed his telent by taking 7 wicket for only 12 runs.Bravo Afridi

Mohammed Aslam Karachi Pakistan

Posted by muxa on (July 16, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

@samroy afridi was pushed to not only play test cricket but captaqin the test team he himself rejected and declared retirement . to be honest i think dav is my fav coach from outside pakistan but i prefer a pakistani coach is far better than international.. BTW TOTALLY AGREE WITH @PADMARLAY

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 8:56 GMT)

Just like to add a few more wanted and unwanted records - Youngest ODI centurian. - Fastest ODI century - Best career strike rate (qual. 5000 runs) - WORST carrer batting average (qual. 5000 runs) - 2nd most number of ducks (qual. 5000 runs) - 2nd WORST innings per a 50+ score ratio - WORST bowling average in 330+ wickets club - WORST strike rate in 330+ wickets club and not to forget - Most number of post retirements comeback and - The only player confusing white ball with a red apple :)

Posted by Muttee on (July 16, 2013, 8:53 GMT)

@Naresh: what are you on about mate? if England can improve on their pace department a little, they might be able to match Pakistan's, not the other way round. Only Anderson is on the same level, and Broad somewhat but others are not quite there yet.

Posted by Naresh28 on (July 16, 2013, 6:49 GMT)

Look some people will criticize bringing Afridi back but he can bring results to your ODI games just like Dhoni brings to India. Pak has a good team especially in the pace bowling department there is so much variety that you could match ENgland.

Posted by PadMarley on (July 16, 2013, 6:30 GMT)

Its not hard to understand Afridi being dropped. Drop them!! so that they fight hard to come back , take the game more seriously, and play better when they come back!! this is what is happening!!

Posted by Sun_Risers_Hyderabad on (July 16, 2013, 6:12 GMT)

Afridi should have been groomed like Sir Ravindra Jadeja. Giving more importance to Afridi's bowling and letting him bat at 7 or 8 th position. Unlike Sir Jadeja, Afridi misses the mentor Dhoni as captain to extract his full potential skills.

Posted by madmasthathi1 on (July 16, 2013, 5:59 GMT)

Seriously Kamran. Afridi? Even leap years are more consistent in their arrival than the arrival of runs from Afridi's bat. What biased writing!

Posted by SamRoy on (July 16, 2013, 4:54 GMT)

I will write something which might surprise you Kamran. I think Afridi has been a huge talent wasted in test cricket. He should have played 100 tests and should have taken at least 400+ wickets. He is in the Kumble mold, even though he doesn't have Kumble's patience and accuracy, his leggie turns more than Kumble's at higher pace and his googly is as good as that of Kumble. He should have batted at 7 or 8 and played as a primarily bowling all-rounder and should have scored 4000-5000 test runs at 30+ average. Plus he was the best fielder in the team for a very long time. All that makes a great all-round cricketer. But there was no one in PCB ranks to guide him except Bob Woolmer.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

i think you love shoiab malik, why you mention him in every article.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 4:30 GMT)

Speaking as an Englishman, I was pleased that Pakistan dropped Boom Boom for the Champions' Trophy. As far as I am concerned, he should never play for them again. Or at least not against England.

Of course, you could say that I am biased, and I would agree. I am biased - and consequently, if any international team other than England drops a player who is a potential match winner with either bat or ball, I say good idea.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (July 16, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

Bring Afridi back into your XI at your own peril, Pakistan. There are 20 atrocious performances on the way after this MOM effort at Guyana.

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 3:56 GMT)

I wish India and Pakistan were together. Just imagine Afridi and Dhoni playing together! O, man! Unstoppables!

Posted by agent001 on (July 16, 2013, 3:06 GMT)

Cut the guy some slack. He came on to bowl when three wickets were already down and he took seven on the trot. Who knows had he come on earlier or when the WI were not three down he may have done better than Vass, the only bowler with eight scalps. Remember Hafeez and Ajmal had zero wickets.

Posted by vswami on (July 16, 2013, 2:11 GMT)

Once in 20 innings, his "close your eyes and swing through the line of the ball" technique works. In no other team, would he have a place with that kind of a hit rate. Thats why no other team has a Afridi equivalent.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (July 16, 2013, 1:43 GMT)

Pakistan needs to come out of this habit of singing and dancing on a one single peformance which comes every 20 matches and start addressing the real problem which is to find a couple of reliable batsmen and to find out which player bats on which position. Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq and Hafeez have been as big failures as Kamran, Farhat and Shoaib malik were. While we are stuck with Hafeez due to his bowling, no one bothers to bat him down the order to avoid battingline collapses. Asad Shafiq, who is being praised as a good batsman has rarely scored and his batting average in ODIs stands at about 26 without even scoring a century in 45 matches. While it all happens, Haris Sohail, Fawad Alam and Usman Salahuddin are still waiting for a break to show their capabilities.

Posted by Digitalbouncer on (July 16, 2013, 1:27 GMT)

Just like to comment on m812 I think its not logical but illogical how come that you describe the wicket as difficult even one club bowler can take five wickets but per your judgement afradi bated as slogger which can't be justified. You much know slogging can be done flat pitches only not on double bounce wickets. We should know how to evaluate the performance considering all the factors.

Posted by Digitalbouncer on (July 16, 2013, 1:13 GMT)

Wow..It reminds me what afradi said before leaving that people of Pakistan got short memory with such kind of performance they forgot all the failures and one failure or defeat they can forget this type of magical performances also.Good luck to boom boom and Pakistan..

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 0:44 GMT)

Haris sohail should be given a chance considering the bad form of the top order players!!!!

Posted by   on (July 16, 2013, 0:31 GMT)

@m812: You don't score 7,000 runs with eyes closed and take 355 wickets being only a good bowler. He lacks consistency, but is an exceptional once in a lifetime all-rounder.

Posted by cricfan140 on (July 15, 2013, 22:26 GMT)

afridi is fantastic! no dout, when he gets going, suerly its pakistan,s day. but there is one thing he needs to understand, he is no more a kid, he has played over 350 odi matches, so he needs to show some maturity and be consistant.

Posted by rsiddiqi on (July 15, 2013, 21:27 GMT)

Its so silly for everyone to be complaining about Misbah's lack of single taking during the 1st odi. Takes a smart man to understand quickly what the characteristics of the pitch are and how much risk he needs to take. He started rotating fairly efficiently once Afridi was on a roll.

West Indies tried taking singles too....and look what happened. There are situations when you need to see either the new ball off, some overs off, a time period off, team nerves off, or whatever. Understand that he is the only stable person in our team and stop complaining about him.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 21:15 GMT)

@m812 If the wicket was so good then why Sunil Narine( Top ranked ODI bowler) was hammered all over the place. Give credit where its due.

Posted by bohurupi on (July 15, 2013, 20:12 GMT)

The match was actually played between Afridi vs the West indies! If you take Afridi out of the equation, Pakistan played no better than the Windies. And Afridi? He is no doubt one of the best all time ODI all rounder, a wizard in the shorter version of cricket. Unfortunately, but his magic usually doesn't click every single time! Pakistan cannot simply rely on him to come to their rescue, rather they need to build up their solid batting infrastructure. The way the batsmen played in this match is nothing but terrible. Umar Akmal's body language didn't suggest he was playing international cricket, rather he looked like was playing in his backyard. Misbah, though was pivotal in stopping the slide on one side, looked like playing test cricket! Hafiz certainly has lost his form. Only Shehzad and Shafiq appeared to be rather unfortunate, either due to extraordinary piece of bowling or fielding.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 20:01 GMT)

This statement says enough about Shahid Afridi as a player. Equal amount of match winning performances with Aravinda de Silva and Brian Lara, and 2 short of retired players Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya. His is truly a mega superstar in the game, and has not been given the credit that he truly deserves. Had he been from another international team other than Pakistan he would have been considered one of the all-time greats by now, and NEVER dropped from an international side! I hope we allow Afridi to play as much cricket as possible and let the cricket fans enjoy one of the most legendary careers ever.

Posted by m812 on (July 15, 2013, 19:47 GMT)

The way I see it ,an logically, not with tinted glasses where one chooses to see what one wants to see..Afridi is slogger who closes his eyes,hoicks the bat and hopes it connects. Yest it did connect and he score 76 of 55.....most of times score reads 0(1) or 10(4) at max. Thats like scoring a respectable score once in 15 matches. Yesterday Pollard and Gayle tried to play a watchful innings and who knows if they had adopted the "Eyes close ,swing and pray it connects" atitude they would have scored big too

His bowling is good but yesterday the pitch was such even any club bowlers would have bowled and taken 5 wkts. He took the extra two ,thats why i rate him as good bowler.

Posted by reason-galore on (July 15, 2013, 18:36 GMT)

The ony way to ensure that afridi performs is that he is made captain. And seeing pakistan's woes, we need aggression as that is the way of 1day cricket. Misbah's approach might be even old for even tests now. The way of playing straight without the ability to take singles is an archaic one. Our batting lineup is not as untalented as the performance suggest(they have failure on their minds and unnecessary slow rate creates more pressure and leads to their demise furthering the building up of pressure). The batsman blocking all the time will create unnecessary pressure and you will get out with 6 runs of 20 balls. You will never get any flow in your batting this way. Boundaries aren't the problem here, it is the ability to not be able to take singles. Misbah is the worst single taker in cricket. Compared to that miadad, salim malik, inzamam, yousuf would take singles from the first ball and that is the way to win ODIS. The best teams have always been aggressive and thus successful.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 18:33 GMT)

poor selection policy lead to champions trophy exit 8th in 8. Its surprising to see batsmen judged on his bowling and bowler on his bating, strange but true, Hafeez don't deserve to be in side as a batsman and especially at one down, but luckily he is there not because of batting but for his bowling and may be some other reason which included shoaib malik in champions trophy squad. Afridi was and is a necessary unless we have some quality player to substitute him no Malik. Hope to see more fom afridi. If people say its against the worst attack then all other poor performers should be sent home as they did not perform even against the worst sides too. its time to think for selectors who deserves to be in the squad, especially Hafeez is, I think near to exit, if he continue like this, when he is captain in T20 his batting a good but in ODI's he is major failure from SA tour to WI so for.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 18:33 GMT)

Pakistan may have redeemed itself by Afridi's performance but the problems with its batting remain! The whole approach to batting rather than the technicalities of it are the root cause of consistent failures. Hafeez is really out of form and should bat at the place of Umar Akmal while the latter should be promoted to Hafeez's place! Misbah's innings was pathetic as it doesnt contribute anything to the overall scheme of things i.e winning matches for Pak. If Afridi hadn't changed the approach to the way innings was played, Pak would have been dismissed cheaply. Misbah would have scored 60 out of countless number of deliveries and although his average keeps on increasing but how many of his innnings have actually contributed to Pak's victories? All the batsmen need to change their approach and be confident about their skills and Misbah should ensure that his team talks do not inhibit but enhance the overall batting performance. Hats off to the bowlers.. they are the best in the world!

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 17:19 GMT)

While Afridi's performance was great to watch, the facts remain that: - it was against one of the worst bowling attacks in cricket - it was amongst one of the worst batting performances ever, where the star top order bat (Misbah) made 10 runs in his 1st 55 balls. - it justifies Afridi's selection but in this band of jokers one could justify Ramiz coming out of retirement - it is in line with his 1 in 10 hitrate of being on song - it takes nothing away from the fact that Pak batting has been crap for a good 4 years (with no end in sight) or that Pak bat's approach to ODIs (a crazy pendulum bt tuk tuk and boom boom) is two decades out of date

Given the 1 in 10 hit rate for Afridi, and the 1 in 100 hit rate for Pak batting, this article is making much ado about a case of "Andhon mein Lala Raja". What really should have us all saying Wowahwowwahwah is 55/5 in 20 overs against the second worst attack in Cricket, after an 8th/8 finish in Champions trophy.

Posted by Cricket_UK on (July 15, 2013, 17:00 GMT)

He's got a new hairstyle, meanwhile.

Posted by CricketChat on (July 15, 2013, 16:45 GMT)

"How long will it last? Nobody knows, not even him." That one sentence sums up Afridi's impact on his team's fortunes. Hence, it was only logical that he was dropped from the team after 6-8 successive failures. If he was someone like Dravid, he would be persisted with a little longer. No matter what, he is always mercurial and exciting to watch whenever he steps on the cricket field. I only hope it lasts a little longer. You don't find cricketers like him playing everyday.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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