Afridi’s retirement: An overdue but wise decision

Published: December 25, 2014

As age is catching up with Afridi, it will be wise for him to quit all cricket after the 2015 World Cup and leave the game on a high. PHOTO: REUTERS

When making a decision, in nearly all aspects of life, timing is very important. If one fails to take a decision at the right time, his or her decision may back fire or people at the helm of affairs may take the person to task and shun him out of the system.

“I didn’t know that painters and writers retired. They’re like soldiers, they just fade away.” – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In Pakistan, soldiers retire at an appropriate age but players show a stubborn approach and eventually, just fade away. The sportsmen of Pakistan, unfortunately, are not ready to adhere to this reality. Most of the prolific cricket and hockey players failed to make timely retirement decisions and were unceremoniously dropped from their teams.

We have a long list of players, including the likes of Majid KhanWasim RajaMuddasir NazarMohsin KhanMohammad Yousuf and many others who for some reason or the other were unable to time and schedule their retirement and as a result, were dropped from the team; either due to inadequate forms or due to the differences that they developed with the board.

In Majid’s case, he was supported by a strong family background and the helpless board was reluctant to drop him. But when his cousin, Imran Khan, took over the reins of captaincy, he took the bold decision of dropping Majid from the team.

The case of Zaheer Abbas is also highly controversial. Zaheer announced his retirement from Test cricket but wanted to continue playing the ODI series for Pakistan. The board members and captains from the 80s were not flexible enough to let Zaheer continue in a single format, and the following argument between Zaheer and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) reached such intensity that Zaheer was unceremoniously dropped from the 3rd Test match of the Pakistan versus Sri Lanka Test series, which was to be played at the National Stadium in Karachi. Fans had thronged the National Stadium to send off Zaheer with fervour but were disappointed when they came to know that he was not one of the 11 players on the field that day.

The reason behind Zaheer’s last minute withdrawal from the team remains to be an unresolved mystery. A passionate fan, who had brought flower petals to be showered onto Zaheer on his last Test innings, showered those petals in the middle of the pitch on Ramiz Raja, who was Zaheer’s replacement for that particular match.

Cricket boards and players around the world are in close proximity with each other most of the time and decide retirements with mutual consent, which then helps the players get a grand see-off and thanks for serving their country. I remember how the whole world knew that last Test match of the Pakistan versus Australia series of 1984/85 was also the last Test match of three stalwarts of Australian cricket, Greg ChapelRodney Marsh and Dennis Lille. Recent retirees of the Australian cricket team, including Ian HealyShane WarneMike HusseyRicky Ponting and many others, were given a send-off matching their stature because they read the writing on the wall and took timely decisions to leave the gentlemen’s game.

Pakistan, however, is devoid of any such trend. In the last 63 years of Pakistani cricket, one will be able to easily count on their fingers the number of players who have announced their own retirement. The only ones I can recall are Imran KhanJaved Miandad and Inzamamul Haq who announced their retirements in a proper manner and left the game with grace.

India’s cricket board callously dropped many star players of the 2011 World Cup from the preliminary squad they submitted to the ICC for the 2015 World Cup. Many of these players were facing the inevitable threat of being dropped but they tried to remain glued to the team. Ultimately, the board, taking a futuristic approach, dropped the players.

Shahid Afridi, the darling of Pakistani cricket, took the untraditional route and officially announced his retirement, and has now joined a select group of players who have bowed out gracefully.

Afridi was initially included in the team as a leg spinner, in 1996. In the second match of his career, however, which incidentally was his very first innings, he blasted the fastest century in an ODI, a record that stand for 18 years. He scored his first Test century during his fourth Test innings, against arch rivals, India, on a cracking pitch in front of a charged Indian crowd.

These initial successes made Afridi the player he is today. The sort of batting style he possessed was more often than not a recipe for disaster and his ODI batting average of 23.49 proves that Afridi failed to utilise his batting talent.

Afridi, however, had announced his retirement from Test cricket in 2010 but continued to play ODI matches. He led Pakistan to the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup and that, I think, was the most appropriate time for him to hang the boots. But, unfortunately, Lala did not take the bold decision then.

The delay in taking retirement not only cost him captaincy but his performance declined a great deal. His batting form was so miserable that he openly started calling himself a bowler who can bat a little bit. His poor form with the bat can be judged from the fact that in the first ODI of the recently concluded Pakistan versus New Zealand ODI series, Afridi was able to bat out for 25 balls after a gap of 17 months, and during this period, he played nearly 40 ODI matches. It seemed obvious that Afridi was only a part of the team more because of his seniority than his performance.

I am glad that Afridi regained his form in the recently concluded ODI series and yet took the praiseworthy decision to announce his retirement well before the 2015 World Cup. Now, irrespective of the result of the upcoming tournament, Lala will always be remembered for his timely decision to quit ODI cricket.

In my opinion, now would be a good time for Afridi to announce his retirement from all forms of cricket. He wants to continue playing T20 cricket and dreams to lead the team to glory in the 2016 T20 World Cup but I fear that if the team fails to meet the nation’s expectations during this tournament, Afridi may have to face the wrath of the people. Considering T20 cricket is more for younger players, with age catching up with him, it will be wiser for him to quit all cricket formats after the 2015 World Cup and leave the game on a high note with his grace and dignity intact.

Khurram Zia Khan

Khurram Zia Khan

The writer is the media manager of Asiatic Public Relations and tweets @KhurramZiaKhan (twitter.com/KhurramZiaKhan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://hammadsiddiquiblog.com/ Hammad Siddiqui

    You took us in the history of Pakistan Cricket. Thanks for sharing an excellent piece.Recommend

  • Khalid Umar

    Way back in early1997 less than year after Afridi’s fastest 100 one of
    our cricket selectors said to me ” Afridi will fizzle out soon as
    quickly as he came in”. I replied “cricket is not my main interest but
    having picked up players for a variety of sports and taken them to high
    standards in very short time I feel this boy Shahid Afridi has got
    tremendous talent and he is not going to fizzle out soon”. This is now
    nearly18 years hence and Afridi went from one brilliant performance to another.

    There is a time when when one calls it a day and its a wise decision by
    Afridi to call it a day. During his illustrious career Shahid Afridi
    achieved great feats, breaking many records. When he clicked there was
    no more exciting cricketer than Afridi. He has been an outstanding all
    rounder, taking huge number of wickets and scoring very impressive runs
    at an intense pace. An agile fielder he took some really difficult
    catches tto.

    There comes a time when one ought to say good bye to
    one’s career with respect and in style. That time may well have come
    though he is available for T 20 World 2015 Cup and should be utilized.

    A good article by Khurram and he gives examples of so many players and even from military life.
    Khalid UmarRecommend

  • Khalid Umar

    Way back in early1997 less than year after Afridi’s fastest 100 one of
    our cricket selectors said to me ” Afridi will fizzle out soon as
    quickly as he came in”. I replied “cricket is not my main interest but
    having picked up players for a variety of sports and taken them to high
    standards in very short time I feel this boy Shahid Afridi has got
    tremendous talent and he is not going to fizzle out soon”. This is now
    nearly18 years hence and Afridi went from one brilliant performance to another.

    There is a time when when one calls it a day and its a wise decision by
    Afridi to call it a day. During his illustrious career Shahid Afridi
    achieved great feats, breaking many records. When he clicked there was
    no more exciting cricketer than Afridi. He has been an outstanding all
    rounder, taking huge number of wickets and scoring very impressive runs
    at an intense pace. An agile fielder he took some really difficult
    catches tto.

    There comes a time when one ought to say good bye to
    one’s career with respect and in style. That time may well have come
    though he is available for T 20 World 2015 Cup and should be utilized.

    A good article by Khurram and he gives examples of so many players and even from military life.
    Khalid UmarRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    All drinks on maximus when he DOES resign.Recommend

  • Muhammad Daniyal Rashid

    Mohammad Yousuf – the most unfortunate in my opinion ! Did not receive a farewell match and thus could not leave on a high note.

    Legend he is !Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Thank you Hammad Sahib for your appreciationRecommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Khalid Sahib your comment is a clear indication that in Pakistan people attached with sports lack vision. They are short sighted people who discourage the youngsters instead of encouraging themRecommend

  • kazi

    Mr Khurram,
    I quite agree with your point of view. One should know how to uphold their rise and following on when to accept their decline. He who does so will most definitely be respected for his action for many years to come.
    In addition this article brings me insightful information about the history of Pakistani cricket.
    Thank youRecommend

  • abhi

    I thought he is still in is 20s.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Can you please name one youngster who can replace Afridi. Replacement means a leg spinner who can bat & field like Afridi.Recommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Waqas Afridi come to us as a surprise, he was send to play purely as a Leg Spinner but he impressed team management in nets, get fastest one day century and become star over night. Pakistan will surely unearth another gem soon. Age is catching up with Afridi and in recent year he is highly inconsistent with bat. He is so inconsistent that he himself said that I am a bowler who can bat a bit. Don’t worry, a replacement will be found if board show vision in future selectionRecommend

  • Waqas

    That is exactly my point, if you don’t have replacement so let him play don’t criticize him. Agreed is his not consistent with bat but he is playing like this for the last 15 years and he still match winner for PakistanRecommend

  • http://khailaurkhilari.wordpress.com Khurram Zia Khan

    Even match winners are dispensable.Carefully review Afridi’s last two years performance and you will see how poor was his performance in this period. Its a fluke when Afridi win us a match and his inconsistency hurting Pakistan.Recommend