Shahid Khan Afridi’s 20 year long journey came to an end with his announcement of retirement from international cricket on Sunday. His journey was filled with glories and miseries. He gave his fans the utmost joys and heart wrenching disappointments.
A young 16-year old boy broke into the scene as a replacement to Pakistan’s experienced leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed in 1997. He was known for his bowling till the then captain Wasim Akram bowled him in nets and saw the potential of a blazing batsman. He was tried as a one down batsman in his second game against Sri Lanka and the rest is history. He crushed all the batting records to become the fastest and youngest ODI centurion in the history of ODI cricket.
It was a time when power hitting was almost unknown to cricket. A strike-rate of 100 was used to be rare and there was this man who brought up his ton in just 37 deliveries. He was doing the unthinkable in the era of 1990s.
Shahid Afridi was a rare breed. He was the toughest batsman to bowl to and yet he was the easiest batsman to get out. He was unpredictable, he was fearless, he was ruthless and at the same time he was vulnerable, he was a comedy of errors.
Shahid Afridi, who has 523 international games under his belt, has the most loyal fan following and at the same time there have been a strong anti-afridi league existed in the world. There is one group who calls him a legend, a hero, a match winner, whereas, the other group calls him miserable and a dent to Pakistan cricket.
Boom Boom Afridi has a batting average of just 35.51, 23.57 and 18.01 in Test, ODI and T20 cricket respecively, which is quite low for a player of his stature. Similarly, he has 48, 395 and 96 wickets in three formats of the game respectively. Despite of these not-so-impressive numbers, he has been the impact player throughout his career. Lala has earned 32 Man of the Match awards in his 398 ODIs which is the fourth highest in the world just behind Sanath Jayasuriya, Jaques Kallis and Ricky Ponting.
His stats suggest that he has more failures in his careers than achievements, but if you take out big wins of Pakistan in the last ten years, he had a big role in them. Be it Pakistan’s run to World T20 final in 2007 or World T20 win in 2009, he was a key component.
He has been a great ambassador of the game (apart from that ball eating incident). He has been a crowd puller throughout his career. He has made commentators scream with excitement and also with agony. He has kept fans on the edge of their seats in the last 20 years. He has made cricket fans say ‘Afridi can do anything’ and ‘Afridi will not do anything’ since he made his debut. He has made cricket attractive to some people and to some people ugly at the same time.
Shahid Khan Afridi was not just a cricketer, he was a brand, he was an emotion, he was passion, he was insanity, he was entertainment, sometimes he was misery, other times he was a hope. Afridi was doer of undo-able. Do not try to find logic behind his game, just celebrate his madness, his unpredictability, his cheekiness and his fearlessness.