To Afridi, with love from India

Published: March 25, 2015
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He entertained us with his unique brand of cricket and surely left a lasting impression on the game.

As I sat down to write a tribute to Boom Boom, I wanted my typing to match the speed that Shahid Afridi played with all his life. But unlike his short cameos, my emotions and love for the cricketer got the better of me and it took me a lot of time to pour out my heart and feelings as I know that the charismatic Pathan will no longer be seen in the 50 overs game.

I am from the generation of the late 90s, when cricket had gathered real pace and velocity, ODI cricket was scaling new heights and, after the 1996 World Cup, the Sri Lankan duo of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana had redefined the 50 over game with their style of aggression.

This really excited me and, as an IndianI was hoping for someone of the similar kind in my own team, even though players like Rahul Dravid were starting to peak at that time. And then, a few months down the line, something happened, something that changed the cricketing world, something that changed my life – an innings played by a 16-year-old, unknown player from Pakistan brought the world to his feet.

I personally did not see the match as I never watched any cricket played by the Pakistan team back then. I had only heard about him on the news and from my cricket loving family. Just hearing of him was enough to build excitement and I got a sense that this might be the player I was looking for.

Shahid Afridi – Pakistan vs Sri Lanka at Nairobi on October 4, 1996. Photo: AFP

It was an Eureka moment for me; I found my hero, I found someone in cricket that I can cheer for and who made me start to watch games played by Pakistan as well. As for being an Indian and belonging to an Indian family, which was a diehard Indian cricket fan, it was very difficult for me to single out one player from Pakistan and cheer for him even when he played against India and scored his century in the Sahara Friendship Cup in Toronto. I was on cloud nine; I forgot that he actually scored a ton against my nation. Just the excitement of watching a striding innings in those days was enough for me to get drawn to this lad.

For me, he was all about hitting and galloping boundaries but for my elder sister, he was more than that. I remember how she often asked me to get his posters from sports shops which were sold more than posters of Indian cricketers in those days. She would stick his posters all over her room, on the wall and on her cupboard, and I can say without a doubt that she too had found her hero. So, I had found a companion, one that would always accompany me in watching the Pakistan cricket team play, especially when Afridi was in the line-up.

I got more attached to him, his every move on the field started to draw me in in further. I began to follow his bowling too, along with his batting; I took extra time to watch his quota of 10 overs.

Then came Sharjah – Afridi was peaking, he was mesmerising.

I would say it wasn’t just satisfaction that drew me to an Afridi inning, but it was also the notion that this crude form of batting could succeed, albeit sporadically, in international cricket and that this boy was being allowed to play the way he wanted to. For purity, I had Rahul Dravid’s drives, but for adrenaline, it was Afridi.

Patience was never a virtue for Afridi. He liked speed and he thrived on providing the opposition and cricket viewers with thrilling action. At the crease, he was always in a hurry, be it batting or bowling. There always just two conclusions to every ball he faced – a hit or a mishit.

Years later, the Pakistan team toured India with Afridi in 2005 at Kanpur. Another century, same opponents – this was one of those games where I again wanted India to win but the when Boom Boom came to open the innings chasing Indian target, I forgot what nations are, I forgot what partition was, I had risen above such petty issues. I only had love for the game in my heart which knows no boundaries, which knows no borders and love for the player, who I had always loved because of his performance on the field and not his nationality.

It was in 2008 that I watched the 37 ball century on Youtube for the first time; the pain of not being able to witness the inning live had finally subsided to a small corner of my heart. The video quality was grainy, but watching Afridi smoke six after six was exhilarating.

And lastly, how could I forget the Asia Cup in 2014, with unfortunately the same team once again on the receiving end. I realised that there were countless moments which both gave me pleasure and heartbreaks whenever India and Pakistan played. It frustrated me so much that I would always curse the partition and think,

“Afridi and Sehwag could have been on the same team.”

Overrated for some, impatient for many but there are not much statistics to validate their arguments, because the record which he holds is very difficult to achieve by a one player. But all we can say is he is a package, all in one, and all his records are a testimony to that.

Shahid Afridi pulls a ball to leg during the fifth one day international cricket match between India and Pakistan at The Green Park Cricket Stadium in Kanpur, April 15, 2005. Photo: AFP

He remained a glowing flame in the murky world, a hero for millions, a reason for smiles and cheers for people not just for his own country but for the whole cricketing world and, without a doubt, he is the most loved Pakistani player in India too. I have seen the spark in everyone’s eyes whenever Afridi came to bat and the jeers from the female Indian audience speak for their love for this flamboyant Pathan.

I know he’s not done yet, he will be seen in 20 overs cricket, so there’s still something for me to look forward to, but I have always associated him with ODI cricket and yes, being stuck on 395 ODI wickets is as painful for me as it is for him. I wish it could have been one of those premature retirements. At least I get to witness him once more, maybe in UAE, because the vision of him is incomplete unless it’s in Sharjah.

For me, he is still that 16-year-old lad, the young and promising Shahid Afridi. He entertained us with his unique brand of cricket and surely left a lasting impression on the game. He was and will always be cricket’s greatest entertainer.

To the irreplaceable Boom Boom, thank you for all the memories.

With love from an Indian and India.

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Uzair Hasan Rizvi

A sports aficionado who is currently studying Masters in Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, New Delhi, India. He tweets as @RizviUzair (twitter.com/RizviUzair)

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

  • Gurion

    He hits an odd big six every dozen matches and all the sheep go, “boom boom”!Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Afridi is like a firework. Let him off and you will be entertained for the next 2 minutes maybe 3. and on the same analogy the cricket team is like an artillery brigade which should be equipped with state of the art rockets and artillery pieces. Fireworks being included in their arsenal completely undermines them. Sure it will be really cool to watch a firework during a battle but an artillery shell decimating a building or an anti tank missile annihilating a tank is ever so much more entertaining.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    I loved the way he played, i have a nephew who would switch of the TV when he got out but he broke a lot of hearts when he said we have small hearts.Recommend

  • Anonymous Indian

    LOL at the author for choosing the clumsiest cricketer on the planet as a hero.

    From an Indian.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Afridi and Sehwag could have been on the same team.”

    He would not have played for as long as he did if he was in any other team, to me he is probably the most over rated player in the history of cricket. I will agree with the author on the fan following enjoyed by Afridi but these are the same fans who should not ask for any accountability from any player when they support a player like Afridi who in my opinion has played with very little accountability.Recommend

  • Lalit

    There was no method to his madness…..he became a pale shadow of himself towards the end of his career..a sitting duck always in hurry to cool his heels in the dressing room,and may be an opportunity for the bowler to add an another wicket to his kitty…his bowling was tolerable though….survived much on style rather than substance.Misbah is the man Pakistani Cricket team is going to miss for a long time in the foreseeable future.Recommend

  • alok kumar

    I remember Kanpur match in 2005…..before his inning some Indian spectators were beating Pakistani flag by shoes………but after his inning the same guys were clapping………..how his batting changed the attitude of rival-spectators…..hard to forget !Recommend

  • wb

    How does it matter what talent one has when one is fundamentally of a sick mentality.

    This man ate a ball in front of a crowded stadium and said he was trying to smell the ball. Why was he trying to smell the ball? That doesn’t matter.

    This man shamelessly danced on a pitch to tamper the pitch when the England team was distracted by an explosion outside the stadium.

    This man shot off his mouth. Which I don’t mind, though it made me laugh when he said Indians have small hearts compared to Pakistanis.

    I can only imagine what other illegal activities he has managed to do on the cricketing pitch when the cameras were not as intense as today, some 15 years ago.

    But if such a man of base mentality and absolutely no integrity can be somebody’s hero? I don’t know how.Recommend

  • murli

    his utility can be guaged from
    the fact that he won
    the most man of the match awards…..can anybody beat that!Recommend

  • murli

    his utility can be guaged from
    the fact that he won
    the most man of the match awards…..can anybody beat that!Recommend

  • shah

    We are sorry for his comment.Recommend

  • shah

    We are sorry for his comment.Recommend

  • shah

    We are sorry for his comment.Recommend

  • shah

    We are sorry for his comment.Recommend

  • alia

    what a tribute from u …tremendous & i want 2 say something about him that he has turn many many many matches in favour of pakistan he will always be missed in one day cricket ……………the power house of pakistan ,the king of cricket and we say him all the very best for t20 …….our prayers are always with him.Recommend

  • Khalid Shaikh

    You call him clumsiest cricketer, firework whatever, but boom boom afridi had this
    x-factor that would make people sit on the edges of their seats, sofas whenever he came out to bat. Even the great tendulkar didn’t had this x-factor, everyone knew tendulkar gonna make another ton.Recommend

  • Danny

    Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to Afridi! Just a thought however, I don’t understand why the author, like many others from our neighbor, always has to bring up the partition in a negative light with every chance they get? We don’t see the British crying about how many world cups they would have won if Australia was still British territory. Pakistan was separated for valid and vital reasons and it is rather offensive to hear the partition that cost us more than everything to be undermined on a small platform like cricket.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    fanaticism is a terrible disease.Recommend

  • E SAfridi

    The most loved plAyer ever around the globe,Ma sha ALLAH!!
    Boom Boom Afridi :) :)

    I would like to thANK the writer for his brilliant,awesome and the very real blog about the greAt player!! :) :)Recommend

  • Waqar

    Many Indians commenting here seem to be disturbed at the fact that an Indian Muslim chose a Pakistani player as his hero :)Recommend

  • abhi

    Yes we love him in India and he should have played some more years. You guys should at least include him in matches against India.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    Thanks Shah that is very civil of you unfortunately Afridi did not know the golden rule of any celebrity , that you do not hurt the sentiments of your fans .Recommend

  • Ali

    Superb Article!
    True nobody is like Afridi. To take 395 wickets and score 8k runs is not easy for anyone.A true legend and always remaim. Boom boom our hero!Recommend

  • Jagga

    32 man of the match awards in what almost 400 matches Saeed Anwar has 28 of them in 189 matches.Recommend

  • Fawad Ali

    He was quick firecracker, go blast come back, not great cricketer. Every player can bat and hit, but scoring high for team is desired, not strike rate, where you go and hit 6 and come back next ball to show strike rate of 300 in two balls played.Recommend

  • Syed Faizan Ali

    Sir, being a Pakistani I m sorry for that sentence. He shouldn’t have said that it’s against sportsmen spirit as wellRecommend

  • Ali

    Hahahaha grow up little kid @Uzair Hasan RizviRecommend

  • vasan

    Just ignore that. After all he was trying to get into IPL in whichever way he could. He couldnt thoughRecommend

  • wb

    Rather, it’s a shame that any human on earth would choose a criminal as a Hero.

    Do you find his ball biting and pitch dancing and in-fights and loud mouth nature HEROIC?

    If so, then you’re going against Quran which asks you to be truthful in life and be honest.Recommend

  • singh

    a very thrilling article about one of my favourite cricketers after javed miandad. boom boom lala.Recommend

  • antanu

    Bro…come out of your biased view and consider only the game and Afridi is a unique one. Demeaning him only reflects adversely upon you. He will be remembered forever for his uniqness .Recommend

  • Abhishek Chaturvedi

    one criminal less in cricket world…good!Recommend

  • Uzair

    Thank you Danny,
    I just wanna highlight one thing, after going through comments on this page and on social media, I realized that I have somewhere failed to interpret my views.

    partition here is a simple metaphor, which a 10 year old boy has used to describe his emotions for the game, obv. as for a 10 year old (then) he does not know what is partition based on, he only know people have been separated, so he makes a metaphorical claim, that in purely build on cricketing emotions that were escalated only at that point when Afridi was going berserk.

    As for an Asian fan, one would know, when they get too much involved in the game, so metaphoric statements often come out, but that has got nothing to do with partition in this case.

    It was a personal narrative of liking for cricket and Afridi, and as an author, my only intent was to focus on Afridi.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    Thanks SyedRecommend

  • ahmad

    it feels so great when it comes from another country especially from INDIARecommend

  • Lalit

    He was playing to the gallery….as he always does..anti India comment=pro Pakistan in his parlance..he was basically doing it to divert attention from Mohali debacle.Recommend

  • Waqar

    Appreciating someone’s good does not mean endorsing his bad. Which part of world are you from? I am sure as hell, India!Recommend

  • Mariam Naqvi

    Where was boom boom during this WC? Sorely disappointed in himRecommend

  • ali

    I pity you.. ppl like u are the reason there will never be love between pak and indiaRecommend