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Howzat — is Afridi Pakistan's gift to cricket?

Updated May 13, 2016 10:52am


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Illustration by Aan Abbas
Illustration by Aan Abbas

Shahid Afridi is a leg-spinning all-rounder for the Pakistan national cricket team who has played for 20 years. He is cricket’s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, except instead of a skull named Henry, he swings a bat like it has its own personality. On the field he has made over 10,000 international runs and taken over 500 international wickets. He travelled the world playing league and domestic cricket as a gun for hire, even playing in India when…

“OMG OMG OMG, Shahid Bhai, wow, has just hit the ball out of the ground, it’s gone, just gone, removed from sight, he just moved his leg and wooshka, it was a slap, a crash, a wallop, it’s the maximum of maximums.”

It was in 1996 in Kenya that a young boy of only 16 years of age strode to the crease to bat for his country for the first time. What happened next was 0610400600661166264400661411041606024100. Using a borrowed bat, this boy tonked the ball like a man, his innings was the quickest hundred in One Day International (ODI) history. It was almost too good to be…

“AAAAAAHHHHHH, he’s out, stupid, stupid, what was he doing, man, just whoosh and clang, no one can play that shot, come on, come on, come on, that is just silly, a waste, why does he always do this?”

As a leg-spinner perhaps the best way to describe Afridi’s bowling is probing. He was constantly at the batsman, with high-octane leg spin which curved in the air often as much as it spun off the pitch. He was difficult to get on top of, especially with a hard to pick wrong’un. Despite the fact it got less attention, his leg spin was, by far, the art he was best at. Out of his hand…

“YESSSSSSSSSSSS, straight through him, he was nowhere near it, it just zipped, the bails were off before the guy even realised which way the ball was spinning, he is too good, too much, too everything.”

11 centuries in international cricket. Most defying the laws of gods and men, let alone cricket. He won games on his own, with bat, with ball, sometimes with both. But it was the 2009 World T20 where he scored back-to-back half-centuries and won the tournament for Pakistan. He was focused, assured and completely in charge, some may claim he was possessed by someone else, but it was still pure Afridi. At the end of the final, Afridi was not out, he stood in the middle…

“LOOK LOOK, what a legend, cock-a-doodle-doo, arms up in the air, head side to side like a proud puppy, winning us the match, the tournament, the world.”

If there was a state between retirement and unretirement, where you could be simultaneously retired and unretired at the same time, Afridi would have been living there since 2006. That is, 10 years of ‘will he or won’t he’ tension; he’s a serial uncommitter. It’s as unpredictable as his…

“NOOOOOO, he can’t, ouch, he did not just do that, what, why would he retire mid-series like that, we need him, we need what he can do, what is wrong with him, dude?”

He has danced on the pitch, angered his fans, angered opposition fans, hit a fan, played politics and bitten a cricket ball live on TV. There was no part of his cricket that did not inspire an emotion. Hate, love, confusion, whatever, he was there to hit balls and…

“WOW, WOW, no, what, how can he do that, how is he doing that, slap, smack, thump, and wham, he’s crazy, man.”

Afridi was Pakistan’s gift to cricket, but he wasn’t a gift to Pakistan cricket all the time. For all the enjoyment, the sheer brainless popcorn entertainment he gave the world, for Pakistani fans he put their already nervy disposition into hyperdrive. Afridi was Pakistan cricket in human form. Every flaw, every gift, all the magic, all the disappointments, the whole thing, wrapped up in silky hair like a…

“WHAT THE, what, I mean just what, ding dong, I just don’t know how to even, I mean, this cannot be happening, it’s just too weird, too much.”

He bowled leg spin like a quick bowler, he batted like the world was about to end, he was often more what people think Pakistan cricket is than what Pakistan cricket actually is.

You do not use normal words when talking about Afridi, you use sounds and onomatopoeia. You say “boom, boom” and that is enough. Sometimes it wasn’t enough. Sometimes it was too much. But it was always…

“BOOM, boom”.

This was originally published in the Herald's April 2016 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

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Comments (56) Closed

h Apr 14, 2016 12:23pm

Gift? You're kidding right? PCB should be brought to ICJ for 'inflicting' this pain on Pakistan and the world.

Rizwan Khan Apr 14, 2016 12:34pm

Absolute class, Wow! I was reading this article and I noticed goosebumps on my hand. I'm a very hardcore, emotional Afridi Fan from India. The writer has put every Afridians mind in this article. Much much love From INDIA. Afridi is a rockstar of cricket.

KB Apr 14, 2016 12:44pm

Media must stop praising him. Also stop using him as a space filler article.

Saad Razzaq Apr 14, 2016 01:12pm


Satt Apr 14, 2016 01:15pm

He is the manifestation of how cricket should be spoiled and how cricket should be brought down to dust.

Shafaq Hussain Apr 14, 2016 01:16pm

"Sahibzada Muhammad Shahid Khan Afridi" THE LEGEND

Areeb Imran Apr 14, 2016 01:47pm

Very nice article we should respect our heroes. Ups and downs are part of life, we face it in our own lives too. He has given 20 years to Pakistan cricket, not everyone is capable of that. Long live Afridi! Pakistan zindabad!

Sarah1 Apr 14, 2016 02:09pm

Keep praising Afridi for years to come. Pakistan cricket is in safe hands as long as he is there.

R.S. Menon Apr 14, 2016 02:19pm

Afridi also brought indiscipline to the team which is the main reason for the down turn of the team.

R.S. Menon, Bangalore

M. Umair A. Khan Apr 14, 2016 02:19pm

Please get over it as cricket career is resultant of players statistics and Shahid Afridi is simply worst player who played for such a long time, clearly shows incompetency of our cricket board.

Arshad, Canada Apr 14, 2016 02:24pm

Boom Boom! Thank you for your wonderful service and excitement to Pakistan.

Funga Apr 14, 2016 02:44pm

Afridi - you are the man. Haters gonna hate.

Muhammad Tahir Jamali Apr 14, 2016 02:58pm

Afridi is good as player and he should continue.

Pakistani Apr 14, 2016 03:05pm

A player with his record would have not lasted this long with any professional side. A product of media who is a liability and whose presence has done more damage than good to the team.

Samrat Apr 14, 2016 03:23pm

Most useless and overhyped player ever.

Danyal Khan Apr 14, 2016 03:27pm

Love You "BOOM BOOM"

Qaiser Qayyum Apr 14, 2016 03:44pm

Sorry to disagree, but Afridi is not the only Pakistan Cricket in human Ffrm. How can you forget legends like Wasim Akram, Waqar, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Hanif Mohammed, Zaheer Abbad, and so many others who have served much more than him for Pakistan Cricket?

Salman Tarik Kureshi Apr 14, 2016 03:49pm

Afridi has been a very bad influence on Pakistani cricketers, especially the younger batsman. He can ignore every rule of good stroke-play, swing cross-bat as if wielding a neanderthal man's club, and still get the ball over the boundary (at least some of the time). Others cannot. But they have this great hero before them, this shining exponent of the art of Boom-Boom, whom they inevitably try to emulate, thinking of all the lucrative shampoo or cellphone sponsorships that might also be theirs. The result is deplorable lack of dependability and disaster for Pakistan cricket in any format.

Ilias Apr 14, 2016 03:51pm

If he just overcame with his own ego, there is no one like him anywhere around. A loyal player can offer a lot as an all rounder.

Sandeep Apr 14, 2016 04:33pm

Pakistan's gift to the world of cricket is swing bowling. Afridi was just like a crush. We liked him for sometime and then he become normal.

zulu Apr 14, 2016 05:08pm

he has been a fascinated player all around the cricketing world

Jonty Rhodes Apr 14, 2016 05:30pm

Afridi has won some games on his own for Pakistan. But if you play for 20 years, you will have your days when you really perform well and win games for your team. However, if you are a serious cricket fan, you need to get beyond that occasional performances and look beneath the surface. To be honest, Afridi would have been dropped from any other team in the world long time back. But he was made captain by PCB. Afridi was a never a captaincy material. He was an impact player and should have been utilized as such. Impact players unfortunately have a short shelf life because if they can't impact the game, they would be dropped. Look at Yusuf Pathan. He is as explosive player as Afridi and a handy bowler but after playing for India for several years, he was dropped because he neither performed consistently nor created any impact. But here Afridi keeps playing despite non-performance and songs are sung in his praises.

khan Apr 14, 2016 05:55pm

Afridi, you have gotten a farewell article. Now retire.

Pakistani Apr 14, 2016 06:03pm

@Areeb Imran He has not given 20 years for free by the way. He has been richly rewarded for it and infact he got far more than he deserves.

asgher Apr 14, 2016 06:42pm

Regardless of the current stuff going on, he is the undisputed legend!

Irfan Apr 14, 2016 06:53pm

It's the media giving him so much BOOM that he is now known as BOOM BOOM. Apart from that he is just a below average over hyped cricketer.

Shahbaz Apr 14, 2016 07:20pm

@Areeb Imran, Yes you are right we should respect our heroes, but is Afridi a hero? I think not.

Revenge Apr 14, 2016 07:22pm

If that's what you call a gift then there has to be a return policy without conditions. Biggest fluke of all time.

John Apr 14, 2016 07:31pm

In 1992 it was Mark Greatbatch and 1996 it was Sanath Jayasurya who started pinch hitting on the top. Afridi was not the first one to start this :) Afridi lasted too long but did not do justice to his talent.

Nadeem Apr 14, 2016 08:05pm

He definitely is a gift! He brought the charm to the cricket. Critics are seeing the bad side only, but he is the glory of cricket. If did not perform with bat, he did with the bowl! Boom Boom Afridi!

tajamul Apr 14, 2016 08:47pm

Afridi is not an individual. It is a state of mind and heart. Rather a terrible state. It is a heart attack.It is an accident. It is an earthquake. It is the end of the world.

Nasser Apr 14, 2016 09:13pm

@h Well I am sure no Pakistani would talk like this about him. As for him, detractors may not like it, but there can never be a cricketer like Afridi.

Kamran Khan Apr 15, 2016 08:52am

Thats why our nation could not excel like other nations because we always let down our legends. I salute Afridi

lubna Apr 15, 2016 09:46am

A trend setter in cricket — after Afridi's feat of fastest centuries and fifties in all forms of the game, players from all over the world started copying him to do the same. Now this is what the game is about, fast and furious hitting and that is invented by Afridi — for Pakistan. He is most frequently the Man of the Matche when Pakistan wins because of his performance, the latest is the only match in the T20 World Cup that Pakistan won against Bangladesh. Remember the sixes he hit in the last over the in final with India in the Asia cup. The fact is that Pakistan has been a losing side for the first 4 batsmen, but jealous people blame it on Afridi (since Afridi drives crowds into the stadium, has the most ads in his pocket etc).

Horseman_IND Apr 15, 2016 11:21am

I wish Shahid bhai to get drafted in the IPL. We Indians should respect the talent and provide opportunity for it to grow regardless of where it comes from. Shahid bhai is the last of the amazing league of cricket legends who defined the childhood of us 90s kids. Love from India.

F Khan Apr 15, 2016 12:30pm

The worst thing Afridi did was to lead a generation with falsified heroism and machoism when he was actually zero, proven statistically. After playing cricket for 20 years he has still to figure out a boundary is horizontal and not vertical.

Ali Apr 15, 2016 03:22pm

he is in the team because of his good looks not because he plays good.. These are two different things Mr. Jarrod.. He needs to play sensibly and win matches.. We are not interested in who calls him Boom Boom or Go Home :D

Subu Apr 15, 2016 03:35pm

Afridi was a classic pinch hitter well before the t20 era. However, he was not the first.. Sanath jayasuriya would probably qualify as a pioneer. However, he has been a match winner on several occasions. His problem was that, fed by a frenzied media, he started believing that he was a legend and could behave like one! biting balls, getting into fisticuffs, politicking in the dressing rooms - stuff you don't do normally. He was exactly off-field, as he was on-field, doing unorthodox stuff and getting away with it, for far too long. In that sense, he was an entertainer. I think no other team would have suffered him of so long as Pakistan. Finally, a legend? I think not. I mean, in the midst of names like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Mindad, Imran Khan, the 2 Ws (and numerous others I might have missed), he is but a midget. He was a character all right, and wore his heart on his sleeve, irrespective whether it worked for his team.

Ram Lal Apr 15, 2016 07:48pm

A legend, no doubt!

Sudhir Neyalasinger Apr 15, 2016 09:35pm

Afridi was very good in his younger days. But the original hitter, the guy who ensured that one day games would be decided on how openers bat was K.Srikkanth. There was a time when no faster bowler knew how to bowl to him as he would hit short pitched balls as well as half volleys. That was till an intelligent bowler called Wasim Akram started bowling everything else to Srikkanth apart from short pitched deliveries or half volleys. The rest of the world then figured out how to contain Srikkanth. In Afridi's case this happened faster.

F Khan Apr 16, 2016 12:31am

@ Kamran Khan: As a matter of fact we have not excelled because some of us have glorified the wrong heroes and legends. Heroes and legends are recognised by others like Miandad, Wasim, Weqar, Zaheer etc. That is what I said, Afridi has spoiled a generation into wilderness of cricket where every young Pakistani boy wants to slog 20 runs in 6 balls and assume he is a legend. Please go check his stats before you give him a cricket Oscar. Even Sehwag, Rohit and Raina have better records than him. If he says good bye to cricket, that will be the greatest innings he will play for Pakistan's cricket.

Khan Apr 16, 2016 02:42am

Great article about cricket's best entertainer. I wonder why people insist on his retirement when he still remains the best T20 player in the existing lot, despite failed captaincy. Roll on boom boom, the world loves you.

Ahsan khan Apr 16, 2016 09:54am

Legend, hero! What an article, I must say.

Ahsan khan Apr 16, 2016 10:08am

@KB we should stop media for praising? You must be kidding, if not Afridi who else in cricket ?

Ahsan khan Apr 16, 2016 10:10am

@Samrat yes he is that's why unpredictability is in his blood. Always play for Pakistan

KSB Apr 16, 2016 11:27am

Absolutely Brilliant......#AFRIDI the legend.

Shakiel Ahmed Apr 16, 2016 03:22pm

Is Afridi an import from China? He works like one.

PAK Apr 16, 2016 04:34pm

I love cricket for two reasons, The first is Miandad the second Afridi. There is only one Miandad and one Afridi

Imran Apr 17, 2016 01:39am

Great ....but he requires to announce his retirement by winning a tournament

Zak Apr 17, 2016 05:54am

No. Good talent made mediocre by arrogance and showmanship. Afridi's goal was to portray himself as being strong on the field rather than keep his head down, focus and deliver. His statistics say it all.

Swaroopa Ramdas Apr 17, 2016 08:41am

Afridi -- is God-gifted in Cricket!

Baao Apr 17, 2016 10:25am

Absolutely...gifted so many games to oppositions across the world..and the swing played a key part. Thank you for your gifts.

Watson Apr 17, 2016 06:05pm

Fluke cricketer, very inconsistent never played as per requirement of the situation.Hit out or get out was his Motto.

Hitesh Apr 18, 2016 12:51pm

What was this? Hahaha this reads like a satire piece.

b Apr 18, 2016 03:17pm

shahid afridi career start

Tirah wall Apr 18, 2016 04:53pm

Great compilation.. Describing Afridi in Afridi's way..:) Reminds of my grandfather (Nana) who never tolerated us on missing Jummat ( grand prayers) but would watch cricket along us when Afridi was playing and used to express same like feelings (excitement/anger) on Afridi's sixes/out... In contrast to our wishes, Afridi always sided Nana in dragging us to mosque by his early exit of field.