One of cricket's greatest mysteries has finally been solved...sort of.
Shahid Afridi, as many fans have long suspected, is not as young as official records have had it all these years. Afridi himself has made the revelation in his autobiography Game Changer released in India and Pakistan this week. In a chapter in which he describes his call-up to the senior Pakistan team in October 1996, Afridi writes that he was born in 1975. Though he doesn't give a month or day, that makes him, potentially, five years older than what he is: official records, including ESPNcricinfo's player profile pages record his date of birth as March 1, 1980.
Afridi debuted in an ODI tri-series tournament in Nairobi, and, most famously, hit a 37-ball hundred the first time he batted in international cricket. That record stood for over 17 years and was even more outrageous for the fact that it had been achieved by a 16-year-old. Except, now we know, he wasn't.
Yet Afridi only deepens the confusion in his book with the following line: "Also, for the record, I was just nineteen, and not sixteen like they claim. I was born in 1975. So, yes, the authorities stated my age incorrectly." If he was born in 1975, that would make him 20 or 21 at the time of the innings and not 19 as he writes.
Alhamdulillah, #GameChanger is already making waves. But dont go for the media hype! To appreciate what @wajskhan & I have penned in my bio, please READ THE BOOK (yet to get my 1st copy!) If I've been tough on someone, I've given them credit where its due! #TruthFirst #HopeNotOut— Shahid Afridi (@SAfridiOfficial) May 2, 2019
He had arrived in Nairobi from the Caribbean, where he was playing in an Under-19 series for Pakistan - which now suggests that he wasn't really under 19 at the time. Afridi has long retired from the international game though the admission adds a retrospective gloss to his performances in the PSL this season, where he played eight games for Multan Sultans and took 10 wickets conceding just 6.74 runs per over - all as a 43- or 44-year-old.
The year 1975 would also mean that he was 34 or 35 when he suddenly retired from Test cricket in 2010, having returned after a four-year absence from the format - as captain - and staying for just one Test. It also means that when he finally played his last game for Pakistan at the 2016 World T20, he was not 36 but 40 or 41.
Fans will recall another public admission of a real age, from a contemporary and team-mate of Afridi. After leading Pakistan to a memorable World T20 win in 2009, Younis Khan announced his retirement from the format, saying that he was 34 and "too old for this kind of cricket". By his official records, Younis was 31 at the time he made the statement; in fact, the number on his ODI shirt - 75 - was the real year of his birth, the same, incidentally, as Afridi's.