July 15, 2013

Afridi speaks the magic word

Dare to dismiss him and he returns with an eye-popping performance

When he gets going, it usually ends in a match-winning performance © WICB Media


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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android 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.

  • Vishwa 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).

  • Dummy4 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>

  • sabarinath 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?

  • Gopalakrishna 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.

  • beverly 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.

  • Android on July 16, 2013, 14:15 GMT

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

  • Syed 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....

  • M 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..

  • Shamalka 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