Shahid Afridi has always been destiny’s favoured son.
His career graph has been beset by disagreements with the board, rivalries with seniors, criticism from the coach, losses at the World T20 – and fans have torn their hair in despair every time he got out for a duck. Then he unexpectedly opens the innings in a NatWest T20 blast game and produces a signature, first T20 ton in all its swashbuckling glory and all is forgiven.
Bat at 7 the entire season. Complain of a sore back. Ask to be moved up the order. Open the innings. Start hitting sixes before being settled.Seven sixes and ten fours later, it took almost all of Derbyshire’s batsmen to equal his final tally of 101 from 42. This is the Shahid Afridi fans wanted every time he walked out to the crease. Coming as it did at the tail-end of his playing career, this ton was a glorious and apt reminder of his hard-hitting capabilities, as well as the highs he has taken Pakistan to over the last two decades.
When his fastest 37 ball ODI hundred was broken after 17 years by New Zealand’s Corey Anderson then subsequently by South Africa’s AB De Villiers, although he acknowledged their skill, he expressed disappointment that Pakistan no longer held the record. Hence, he was probably pleased that this feat is the second fastest T20 ton by a Pakistani batsman, after Ahmad Shahzad’s 40 ball century for the Bangladesh Premier League’s Barisal Burners in 2012.
A lot is being made of the fact that it took 222 innings for Afridi to score his maiden T20 ton. In the last few years since T20 cricket really exploded onto the scene, he never opened and was often sent in as a pinch-hitter whenever Pakistan were having difficulty chasing. According to cricket.com.au, five out of Afridi’s 10 fifties in T20 cricket have come as a top order batsman, which makes one question if perhaps he was not utilised properly in his final years playing for Pakistan. However, he was captain up until the WT20 2016 and when asked in one Dubai press conference why he had not moved himself up the order, he said there were others more capable of him. The fact that he asked Hampshire’s management to promote him to the top, shows how comfortable he was with in that environment.
BBC Sports described it as “Some of the cleanest hitting surely ever witnessed in the 15-year history of the competition,” whilst The Telegraph were effusive in their praise for “An astonishing piece of bottom-handed bashing by Afridi.”
Cricinfo has quoted him as saying that he wanted to attack from the start, but it was not easy because the ball was seaming. To the joy of his fans and the lament of his detractors, a few things have not changed – his aggression and thirst for runs.
Trinbago Knight Riders asking him to play in The Caribbean Premier League’s play-offs after the exodus of central-contracted Pakistan players, is witness to him being in demand by the same team that only recently fielded 18-year-old Shadab Khan. There lie two decades between Afridi and the young bowling prodigy, but age has made no dents in Afridi’s ongoing attraction as T20 bonanza.
Unable to take part in the South African T20 Global League players’ draft due to an earlier commitment with the Bangladesh Premier League, the 2016 winners and Dhaka Dynamites’ CEO Obeid Nizam says he is absolutely delighted to have Shahid Afridi on board.
Whilst he has been criticized for taking part in Afghanistan’s Sphageeza Cricket League, it has been reported that the Pakistan and Afghan boards sorted out their differences at the Asian Cricket Council meeting in Colombo last month. Aware of the mutterings, Afridi said he would be promoting peace through cricket.
Given his recent statement that it would be have been nice to see Indian players in the upcoming World XI matches in Lahore, one could be forgiven for assuming a political career lies ahead. In the past he has admitted to having an interest in politics and his condemnation of the ill-treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, points to an increasing awareness of world affairs. No sooner had he tweeted on the issue, then the younger batch of Pakistani players followed suit.
Alongside his extensive charity work across several continents, whichever path he chooses to take in the next few years and no matter how many Man of The Match awards he has won for his bowling figures, he will always be remembered for his ferocious batting. Were he to embark on a political career, one could expect an equally explosive second innings from him.