Will the real Afridi please stand up?

Published: March 12, 2015

Pakistan's captain Shahid Afridi celebrates after taking the wicket of Kenya's Thomas Odoyo during their ICC Cricket World Cup group A match in Hambantota, south of Colombo, February 23, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

“Of Shahid Afridi, it can safely be said that cricket never has and never will see another like him. To say he is an all-rounder is to say Albert Einstein was a scientist; it tells a criminally bare story.” – Cricinfo

Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi is a legend, whether people agree to it or not. After close to two decades of belligerent bowling, barbaric batting and iconic off-the-field banter, I say this with great despair that the end of Afridi is upon us.

Since his game changing 102 off 37 balls against Sri Lanka, Afridi has become the apple of everyone’s eye. Even earlier, he was the player that people talked about, even when the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis still dominated the game. This new lad had taken a toll on the people of Pakistan, as well as the cricketing community at large, and continues to do so.

Whenever Afridi comes to bat, the crowd goes wild. Whenever Afridi is out, the stands are deserted. Such is the charisma that Afridi has brought to the field. People are crazy, fanatical and emotional about him.

In the entirety of his career, he might be the least dropped player ever. His aura amongst the playing 11 would strike fear in the opponent’s hearts. The Bangladeshis have firsthand experience of this as the wounds of the Asia Cup 2014 are still fresh.

Afridi’s resume is quite impressive too. With almost 400 ODIs played, he has scored 8000 runs and is five shy of 400 wickets. But those numbers do not do justice to his heroic performances. One cannot simply put into digits his Imran Khan-esque gallantries in the victorious T20 Word Cup of 2009 or the all-star performance in the 2011 World Cup, while bagging 22 wickets.

But what still resonates with the masses are the twin sixes he scored against India in the 2014 Asia Cup and the bellowing cry of Ramiz Raja’s “Afridi you beauty!” that reminded us of the great Javed Miandad back in Sharjah, 1986.

Shahid Afridi is mobbed by his team-mates, India v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Mirpur, March 2, 2014. Photo: AFP

Alongside these, no one can forget the number of world records this man has made. Most sixes by a batsman (350*), youngest player to score a century in ODIs (16 years and 217 days), joint second fastest 50 (18 balls), sixth highest wicket taker of all times in ODI (395 wickets), second best bowling figures in ODI (7 for 12), most wickets by a captain in world cups (22 in 2011), the only Pakistani to score 10,000 runs and take 500 wickets in all forms of the game and, lest we forget, the booming 16-year-old record of the fastest century scored in any format of the game (102 off 37 balls).

The list goes on.

Yet it’s not his magical bowling nor his marvellous batting that makes him a favourite; it is the persona that he carries. Every young boy who grew up in the 2000s wanted to adopt the Afridi name. From Karachi to Khyber, he is a favourite. The way his hair is pulled back under his cap, his fielding position at short cover and his remarkable pose, all are copied on the streets of Pakistan as kids continue to idolise him. With a lack of superstars, Afridi has become the role model everyone longs to be. He is the women’s heartthrob, the teenagers’ mascot and his electrifying energy has unified the nation on various occasions.

He is the hero Pakistan needs.

Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi (L) congratulates Mohammad Hafeez as he dismissed Bangladesh’s Shahriar Nafees successfully during their second One Day International, ODI cricket match of the series in Dhaka December 3, 2011. Photo: Reuters

Being the poster boy for Pakistani cricket since his debut, he was never able to shake off the expectations that were attached to him. But soon, he opted out of opening for Pakistan and focused on his bowling. This proved to be vital for him as well as the team, as he secured a permanent spot in the side and, alongside Ajmal, dominated the game.

Even still, the fans of Pakistani cricket expect him to deliver his onslaught. One hopes for Afridi to stick around for just five overs during his batting, and when he does, everyone knows that they are in for something spectacular.

396 ODIs later, here we are, at the close of another chapter in Pakistani cricket. He may be amongst the few lucky cricketers in Pakistan’s history to leave the game with their respect and pride intact. As the dawn of the day comes for Afridi’s departure, I can’t stop thinking about Eminem song, Real Slim Shady. For Afridi, the lyrics could go like:

“So will the real Afridi please stand up,

And put one of those fingers on each hand up

And be proud, to be out of your mind and out of control

One more time, loud as you can, how does it go?”

Shahid Afridi bowls during a cricket practice session ahead of their ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match against India on Wednesday in Mohali March 28, 2011. Photo: Reuters

Classified as ‘aggressive, passionate and immature’, he fits the definition of an angst-filled teenager, ready to prove himself out in the world. Whether he has proved himself or not is a different debate, but what he has done is set a precedent for future cricketers who aspire to dream big. All one needs to do is pluck at the strings of the nation’s hearts and sing in key. Afridi has done exactly that, many times, and his career has gone nowhere but north.

Afridi has left no prodigy behind. There is no heir to the Afridi throne, because the fact of the matter is, there will never come another like him. Whenever he walks down to bat for the last time or bowls his final delivery, one will automatically think of how much he has contributed for Pakistan and a small part inside all of us would want him to raise his hands in the sky for the last time.

All the best for the remainder of the tournament, Afridi, and may you be as victorious as Imran Khan was upon his retirement.


Mohammad Nazar Syed

Mohammad Nazar Syed

Nazar is a writer and poet based in Canada. His debut publication is called 'A Rush to the Stars' and is a collection of his poetry. He tweets as @mnazarsyed (twitter.com/mnazarsyed)

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

  • Guest

    He is a spent force now.Recommend

  • Guest

    Stop wasting time! He is an average player with a big heart but pea-sized brain…. That’s about it!Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I do hope there is no other like him. I like the team to win now and thenRecommend

  • Anas

    Nazar you are good at this man .. for somebody who is just 18…. dude you have a long way to go! Well Done!Recommend

  • Jor El

    “He studies in grade 13 and hopes to pursue his dream of being an author.”
    Grade 13 ??? am not sure how that works …
    @author can u pls clarify that ?Recommend

  • Nazar

    Well when you take an extra year to complete grade 12, that year is known as grade 13. I’m now halfway into University so I guess they’ll have to change that. Recommend

  • Nazar

    Thank you man! Appreciate the support. Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    he is pretty good to be honest. you should read some of his earlier blogs they are really good.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Misbah fans will not like this article, as they are stat lovers. Afridi is a match winner who has won matches for Pakistan on numerous occasions. I can’t even recall a single game which Misbah has won for Pakistan. He plays for his stats and Pakistan loses. 2011 World cup semi final cannot be forgotten and Misbah will always remain its villain.Recommend

  • Fawad Shah

    Afridi was a poor batsman (averaging 25) and a poor bowler (averaging 32). A poor player to begin with. He has done more damage than good for Pakistani cricket. Recommend

  • Fahad

    ET is yet to publish a single well-written article on cricket. By the looks of things, that isn’t happening any time soon. One would expect that the editors will be sane enough not to allow an article on Afridi when the real legend of Pakistan, Misbah, is retiring at the same time.Recommend

  • Bashaar

    This article has managed to touch the emotions of my love for Shahid Afridi. Truly one of the greats of the game. Cricket will never be the same again. Recommend

  • Nazar

    Thank you! I am delighted that you would think that. Really gives me a boost of confidence. Recommend

  • mobin

    A ball biting and pitch ruining role model is what this nation deserves Recommend

  • OpMocking Bird

    He is a waste, give almost any batsmen unconditional license to hit the ball not matter what and he would do 100 times better then Afridi. When Pakistan plays with Afridi, in essence Pakistan is playing with 10 players and an Afridi.. He would NOT be missed.Recommend

  • Jor El

    Ok, see am unaware of the schooling system in Pakistan, hence asked. In india, u have 3 boards, CBSE, ICSE n the local state boards. All of them have a standard set of 12 standards(grades) to complete. After that u go off to university(if one wishes to, that is ;D )Recommend

  • Samreen Ansari

    very well written Nazar..! This article of yours, for some reason made me tear up :'(
    I was his fan from standard 3 :p ( to the fact that i never understood cricket at that time BUT i was his fan) I’ll surely miss him on the field especially when he raises his hand in the sky (omg..that is always an epic) :'(
    from love, <3
    an Indian :*Recommend

  • Hamdani

    Your article and praise for Afridi might have held true a year or two back. But unfortunately and sadly what Afridi has been known and popular for throughout his career, everyone must agree, McCullum, DeVilliers, Gayle, Maxwell and a few more do it much better now and with far more consistency. Afridi is a hero but has been over shadowed by his contemporaries in the game. Recommend

  • Afsar Ali

    Very good article. Do not agree 100% though but I repsect your feelings for Pakistan and Afridi. You have such a high skill of writting. Keep it up. Well done.Recommend

  • Nazar

    Thank you very much! Really appreciate your kind words. Yes he is truly an epic that will surely be missed by his fans. Cheers!Recommend

  • Nazar

    I actually live and study in Canada. The Pakistani system is much similiar to India’s system. Thanks again!Recommend

  • Jor El

    Aah, gud for u man … Keep writing n wish u all da best …Recommend

  • Samreen Ansari

    Its my pleasure Nazar..! But still i just can’t imagine a well-formed Pakistani team without MY boom boom :'(Recommend

  • Amar Ali Khan

    Cricket will be no more the same without afridi :weeping.Well done Mohammad Nazar for letting your emotions flow on the keyboard. The whole nation has the same feelings for the LALA!Recommend

  • anon0912

    I didn’t even read this,but people need to stop glorifying Afridi.When you play for what 4-5 world cups,you should at least be able to carry the team when it needs an experienced batsman.People need to stop living in the past,doing good in the past does not mean you have the right to steal a spot from someone who deserves it now.Come on,it was time he retired.Recommend

  • Harris

    You have a Gift!!!! Brilliantly written!!! Amazing Talent Nazar!!Recommend