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Shahid Afridi has been one of the greatest ambassadors of the game of cricket to date. In this article, we revisit his career, cricketing achievements, and beyond.
October 4, 1996 – When It All Started
The cricketing world was left astounded when a fine young man, a 17-year-old, lit the Nairobi Cricket Stadium on fire in just his 2nd ODI. Shahid Afridi, playing his first international inning, struck a breathtaking 37 ball 100 against Sri Lanka. His ton was the fastest ODI century at that time and was going to remain the same for the next 17 years to come, before the record being broken by Corey Anderson. A statement had been made. A star was born.
1996-2003 – Early Days
Shahid Afridi’s all-round performances coupled with the fact that he was a teenager with a lot of potential meant he was there to stay. The dressing room he got in his early years was unparalleled. Being surrounded by the likes of Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, and Waqar Younis was a dream come true for him. His hard work made sure he played both the World Cups held in this period; 1999 and 2003 World Cups.
2005- Afridi’s Carnage at Kanpur
Afridi’s 45-ball-100 in Kanpur against India in the iconic 2004/05 series is worth recalling. After all, the cricketer was given the much popular title of ‘Boom Boom’ by Ravi Shastri in the very inning. Coming in as an opener, the power-hitting batsman took the charge early and deposited Indian bowlers all around the park. He was adjourned the Man Of The Match for that terrific knock, and rightly so.
Shahid Afridi’s Performance in T20 World Cups (2007 & 2009)
Afridi performed poorly with the bat but outshined everyone with the ball in the inaugural T20 World cup held in 2007. Due to his performances, Pakistan reached the final of the tournament. Although he got out on a golden duck and failed to take a wicket in the final, his previous performances were enough to earn him the Man of the Series Award. The veteran Pakistani All-rounder became the first player to receive the Player of the Tournament in T20 WC history.
In the next tournament, Shahid Afridi performed brilliantly with the bat in hand, scoring 50 runs in the semi-final and an unbeaten 54* runs in the final leading his team to victory and crowning them the prestigious title after the disappointment of the previous tournament.
Shahid Afridi’s Performance in ICC World Cup (2011)
Shahid Afridi was appointed as the captain for the WC after he gained an overseas series victory against New Zealand.
In Pakistan’s opening match of the tournament against Kenya, Afridi dismantled Kenya’s batting line-up. He took 5 wickets for 16 runs earning the record of best bowling figures by a Pakistan bowler in a WC, which was later broken by Shaheen Shah Afridi in the 2019 WC against Bangladesh.
The national team captain claimed a total of 17 wickets from 6 matches in the group stage, as Pakistan finished top of their group and easily qualified for the next stage of the tournament. After defeating West Indies in the quarter-final with Afridi taking 4 wickets, Pakistan was knocked out by their arch-rivals in the semi-final, losing by 29 runs.
Shahid Afridi was leveled with Zaheer Khan as the joint-leading wicket-taker of the tournament with both getting 21 wickets each. Although he played a game less than Zaheer Khan.
Asia Cup 2014
The version of Shahid Afridi stepping into the Asia Cup 2014 was not a particularly glorious one. He had failed to deliver both with the ball and the bat in the last two years, averaging a meager 17.80 with the bat and an unboastful 35.92 with the ball in 2012 and 2013. This meant that Afridi, now 37, was on the radar of critics and needed to produce something special to justify his place in the team.
The antidote did come, soon, as Afridi blasted 34*(18) against India and 59(25) against Bangladesh, granting Pakistan Cricket Team an improbable victory in both the matches. These wins took Pakistan to the final of the tournament for the second consecutive time. We surely saw glimpses of vintage Afridi in that tournament, even if they were to be short-lived.
World T20 2016 and Afridi’s Eternal Good Bye To Green Jersey
After a disastrous 2015 World Cup, Afridi knew for sure that WT20 2016 was going to be his last ICC tournament if you ask me. Him as the captain, and a big win against Bangladesh in the first match, It seemed like the stars were aligning to provide a legendary farewell to the legendary cricketer. It did not, however, prove to be true as PCT lost matches after matches against India, Newzealand, and Australia, and couldn’t make it past the group stage.
Pakistan had done poorly in an ICC tournament yet again and for the worse, Afridi’s legendary career spanning 20 years had come to an end.
A New Inning
Unlike many others, Afridi’s career did not end the moment he left the international field. Shahid Afridi Foundation, founded in 2014, now became the focal point of the 44-year-old cricketer’s life. SAF has been involved in Education, Health care facilities, and sports rehabilitation, particularly in the less developed areas of Pakistan like Balochistan and rural Sindh.
Afridi also has contributed widely to the global growth of cricket in this time, him playing the recently concluded Kashmir Premier League and the ongoing Everest Premier League being some examples.
Written by Ashar Ali Khan and Aliyan Khan