Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi was born on 1 March 1980 in Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, popularly known as Shahid Afridi is a Pakistani cricketer and current captain of the Pakistani national team in the international circuit. He made his ODI debut on 2 October 1996 against Kenya in Nairobi and his Test debut on 22 October 1998 against Australia at Karachi.
He is known for his aggressive batting style, and currently holds the highest career strike rate in the history of international cricket. He also holds the record for the fastest one day century which he made in his debut innings, as well as scoring 32 runs in a single over, the second highest scoring over ever in an ODI. He also holds the distinction of having hit the most number of sixes in the history of One Day International cricket. In a survey, Afridi was named as the most popular cricketer in Pakistan.
Afridi is from the Afridi tribe of the Khyber Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the Afghan Border and hails from a Pashtun family.
His general style of batting is very aggressive and attack oriented and has earned him the nickname “Boom Boom Afridi” for his fastest One Day International century just in 37 balls. Moreover, out of the six fastest ODI centuries of all time, Afridi has produced three of them. As of 21 February 2010, he has an ODI strike rate of 111.65 runs per 100 balls, the highest in the game’s history. This attitude has been transferred to Test cricket as well, with Afridi scoring at a relatively high strike rate of 86.13 in Tests. He has an approach to batting that can change the tempo of a game and inspire the mood of an audience, as shown when a mass exodus of spectators occurred in Pakistan in late 2005 following his dismissal from the crease. He hits many sixes long and high, favoring straight down the ground or over midwicket. A trademark shot is a cross-batted flick to the leg-side to a ball outside off stump. This explosive style has led to some memorable shots, most notably the first ever 12 in power cricket in 2002, where Afridi successfully hit the roof. However, his aggressive style increases his risk of getting out and he is one of the most inconsistent batsmen in cricket. This is reflected by the fact that he is the only player to score more than 6000 ODI runs at an average under 25.
While he is renowned for his aggressive batsmanship, he is also a handy leg-spinner capable of producing a good mix of wicket taking balls. He has over 300 International wickets, most of which are from the ODI format. While his stock ball is the leg break, his armory also includes the conventional off break and a ‘quicker one’ which he can deliver at nearly 80 mph in the style of a medium-pacer. He bowls at a high speed for a spinner, resulting in lesser turn, and relying more on variations in speed. He occasionally sends down a bouncer to a batsman, which is very rare for a spin bowler. He has, on occasion, played in the team primarily as a bowling all-rounder as well, coming much lower down the batting order.
And the collapse of the roles of individual bouts of Test match Afridi hit a career, showing runs scored (red bars), and the average of the last ten rounds (blue line).
In October 1996 at the age of 16 and taken to the ODI team as a roundabout way to be a substitute for the injured Mushtaq Ahmed. Then he got the fame as a pinch hitter and began opening with Saeed Anwar. He holds the record for the fastest century in an international match for one day (from 37 balls), and scored in the second match only, and the roles of the first ODI. It also shares with Brian Lara’s record in the third century the fastest in ODIs (off 45 balls), and also holds the record for the sixth fastest he made in 53 balls against Bangladesh, one of Pakistan’s very useful for the game of baseball for all, and he has a way of beating an aggressive too, which is what happened to him during the runs ODI 6000 (including a world record of 280 sixes), as well as taking over 270 wickets in ODI’s and more than 40 tests.
For various reasons, including the notion that he lacks patience in beating him, and Afridi was limited opportunity in Test matches, though it is currently high rates in the thirties and mid-thirties, with a bat and ball, respectively. As it is, and Afridi has emerged in less than a third of test matches played by Pakistan over his career. However, he felt he was in the third test against India in March 2005, recording a quick-fire second roles of half a century, and Take 5 wickets in the match (including Tendulkar twice) to help Pakistan win the game and register a series draw.
It is envisaged that beating him struggling on the bouncy pitches. After success as an opener on the courts of the sub-continent, and often moved to the lowest Afridi system as well.
Afridi was more consistent with beatings and his bowling during 2005, ranging from tours of India and the West Indies, and during this tour to England. Pakistan helped coach Bob Woolmer Afridi to reach a fuller potential by improving his shot selection and giving him free rein over the position of beating him.
In the world 2007 Twenty20, he performed poorly with the bat but brilliantly with the ball, and was awarded man of the series, although he failed to take wickets in the final, and was out for a golden duck.On May 25, 2010, Afridi was appointed commander of the national team in all three forms, after he announced his return to Test cricket.
Temporary Test retirement and return
On April 12, 2006 Afridi announced a temporary retirement from Test cricket until after the 2007 World Cup so that he could concentrate on ODIs. Even then his performance in county cricket for Ireland recently had declined and he bowled better than he batted. He also claimed that the workload was too much to cope with.
However, on April 27, 2006 after much discussion with Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Afridi reversed his decision. Despite this, Afridi was later dropped from the Test team in early August 2006 after three quick-fire innings against England. He was placed well down the batting order, away from his more usual spot in the middle-order, and displayed flamboyantly reckless strokeplay on the English pitches, leading to short but entertaining innings.
* On 4 October 1996, playing his maiden international innings, Afridi hit the fastest One-Day century off 37 balls against Sri Lanka in Nairobi. His innings included 28 runs off one of Sanath Jayasuriya’s overs, whose record he broke.
* Youngest player in history to make an ODI century at just 16 years and 217 days with his 37 ball ton against Sri Lanka. It included 11 sixes and 6 fours.
* Made a half-century from 26 balls and took 3 second-innings wickets in Pakistan’s series-drawing Test victory against India in March 2005.
* Holds the joint record with Brian Lara for the third fastest ODI century off 45 balls in April 2005 against India.This actually was the first match that witnessed the Indian cricketer-turned-commentator Ravi Shastri giving him the nickname Boom Boom Afridi.
* Highest aggregate sixes scored in the 50-over game, and he the most sixes per innings record.
* Scored four consecutive sixes off a Harbhajan Singh over in a Test match against India in January 2006, matching a feat that Kapil Dev achieved in 1990.
* Was the first player to score 12 runs off one ball, by hitting the roof of the Millennium Stadium. This took place in a game of Power Cricket.
* Holds four of the top eight fastest ODI half centuries, twice completed in 18 balls and twice in 20 balls. He has also scored a half century off just 21 balls.
* Made 32 runs off a Malinga Bandara over in an ODI game at Abu Dhabi in 2007. He struck four consecutive sixes and it was the 2nd most expensive over in ODI history.
* Is only the third player in ODI history to achieve the combination of 5000 runs and 200 wickets. The other players being Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis.
* On 21 June 2010, batting in the fifth match of the Asia Cup against Bangladesh in Dambulla, he achieved the world record of hitting the most number of sixes in an ODI career, which was previously owned by Sanath Jayasuriya of Sri Lanka. In the same match, he scored his sixth ODI century, also the sixth fastest century in ODI Cricket coming off 53 balls. He ended at 124 off 60 balls, which became his highest ODI score. This was also his second century in the 2010 Asia Cup.
On 21 November 2005, Shahid Afridi was banned for a Test match and two one-day internationals for deliberately damaging the pitch in the second match of the three-Test series against England. TV cameras pictured him scraping his boots on the pitch scuffing the surface when play was held up after a gas canister exploded. Afridi later pleaded guilty to a level three breach of the ICC code of conduct relating to the spirit of the game. Inquiries were made and Afridi’s antics came into view. He was investigated and banned after the day’s play, along with receiving a huge amount of criticism from the cricketing world for bringing the game into disrepute.Match referee Roshan Mahanama said: “This ban should serve as a message to players that this type of behaviour is not allowed.” On this Afridi accepted his fault and said that a “senior player like me should set good examples to others because they see us to learn.” His behaviour was also condemned by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
And accused Afridi in the February 8, 2007 to bring the game into disrepute after he saw the camera push his bat on the spectator who swore him on his way up the steps after dimensions. And replays appeared to show that it was not supposed to work to cause injury, even though the viewer had to move out of the way to avoid contact. Was found guilty Afridi, due to the suspension of four ODI matches, and the prohibition of the minimum possible for such an offense for, and this means that Pakistan will not miss the first two World Cup 2007. PCB and Afridi chose not to appeal the ban, despite the feeling that the punishment is too harsh. It should be noted that the officials of cricket in South Africa, and the viewer alike and was also a rebuke to play a role in the causation of the accident.
On 31 January 2010, Afridi was caught on camera biting into the ball towards the end of the 5th Commonwealth Bank One Day International series in Australia, at the WACA Ground. He was immediately called by the match referee after the match was over. In his defence, he told a Pakistani TV channel that he was trying to “Smell the ball” however later Afridi pleaded guilty to ball tampering and he was banned from two Twenty20 internationals.
Ah, Mr Afridi. Come in, I’ve been expecting you. Take the couch there, get comfortable and let’s begin. Let’s talk about you. Now, it says you have been erratic in the past? Restless, hyperactive, short attention span, poor concentration and discipline, too aggressive, never stable? Success came early in your life, like for pop stars, and it would be fair to say, would it not, that you have struggled with that?
Reports I have read indicate that you have repeatedly, and often spectacularly, failed to fulfill what, by all accounts, is immense potential. They suggest you have been reckless with your gifts, predictable only in your alarmingly poor judgement of situations and context. Possibly you have had too many people trying to tell you what to do. And you may not have received the kind of counselling and the confidence someone of your gifts might feel entitled to. But it does appear that there has been some improvement in the last year – a period of introspection, perhaps, or even maturity? Tell me, do you have any regrets?
It seems a fitting way to start with Shahid Afridi. “What do you mean?” he slaps back.
“You could’ve done better with what you had?”
“Obviously, I haven’t fulfilled what talent I had. I have made mistakes and others have, too, with me.”
It is unlikely that more fascinating places exist than the space inside Afridi’s head. Inside, you may discover, among other curiosities, the workings of an intricate and unique hand-eye coordination mechanism. You may happen upon a decision-making process so garbled and flawed as to be redundant.
Above all, you may untangle why – and how – he manages to play the game as he does. How, in a time of the model professional athlete and sport as occupation, has he come out to the field, intermittently, for nine years and treated his job as little more than an extension of a galli knockabout? And how – in an era where batsmen such as Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis have striven to better themselves with cold purpose – can Afridi come out and, bluntly, just try to belt the shit out of every ball he faces, disregarding vagaries of length, swing, line, bowler, context?
Take an example, a recent one even. He has bullied 59 in as many balls at Kolkata, the day is eight balls from its conclusion, the opposition rattled, a day to go, and a target that could, if he stays, become gettable. Instead of staying on, he chooses to top-edge a sweep off Anil Kumble straight to fine leg, placed expressly for that shot. So you ask him from where he summons this exhilarating ignorance, this disdain, this negation of common sense and convention.
“Honestly, I go out thinking I’ll bat five or six overs sensibly and after that open up. But I get there, the bowler starts running in and I immediately start thinking ‘Smash it’. My mind just goes. I suppose I have no control over myself.” Or maybe it is blinding over-confidence, an ‘impossible doesn’t exist’-type confidence.
So it’s all his making then; he is solely responsible for the way he is now? If only it was that black and white. No, for as you rummage through his head, you find that Afridi is as much the consequence of others as he is of himself. Shunted in and out of the team, the fear of being dropped lingering permanently, floated around the team, unsure where he fits in best, being told by everyone and their chacha how to bat; this has shaped him just as much.
His scars are public, deep and multifarious. His talk is peppered with references to them: “I have always batted under extreme pressure … Every tour has felt like the last, actually every two I thought, this is my last … Lack of confidence from coaches hasn’t helped … Lots of doubts creep into your mind when you’re dropped constantly; you start looking for excuses when sometimes you should acknowledge that it isn’t meant to happen.” And so it goes.
Imagine playing through most of your career like this. Forget cricket, imagine working in an organisation for nine years and still being unsure of where you stand. How else can he be if not the way he is?
But in the last year, something has happened. Something that has evoked the sort of feeling that comes after you take big – but correct – decisions, when it dawns on you and gnaws at you that everything that went before was utterly wrong. You knew it then but wouldn’t admit it. So it is with Afridi. We all knew he needed support and confidence when he frustrated and floundered, yet it was easier to ignore him. Now that he has been given that backing and has responded, we can admit it.
“I have been given a lot of confidence by the coach and captain since I came back into the team last year. When they back you openly, it is a big thing. Just to know that they won’t drop you after two games – it has happened often enough to me. Look at [Virender] Sehwag. Even when he fails they back him and look what he does,” he explains.
As Bob Woolmer says, with players like Afridi it isn’t so much about technique as about goal-setting: “I don’t care how you go about it, this is what I need from you today.” And Afridi has responded with gusto. “Bob’s excellent in that he keeps spirits up. If I smack two sixes and then get out, I’m feeling miserable anyway, so instead of moaning about the shot I got out to, he praises the two sixes. He doesn’t let your spirits flag. Occasionally he makes suggestions about where your feet were when you played your last shot, but never too much.”
It’s so simple that what has preceded it in his career is almost shameful. He talks so often about this confidence, he emphasises it so, that you wonder what a multitude of coaches have been doing with him. Over the last year, a secure Afridi has become, belatedly, indispensable to the Pakistan squad. His rebirth found violent culmination in Kanpur’s 45-ball mayhem in April. He returned, through a combination of injuries and sheer irrepressibility, to the Test side as well. In a team of heroes at Bangalore, he stood out, for his wickets on the final day and, crucially, for his crazed assault on time on the fourth afternoon.
But redemption has encompassed more than just that. We know, after all, that his batting, when the karma is right and the yin and the yang aligned, is unmatched for spectacle and effect. But his figures in ODIs during that period are still fairly modest: a batting and bowling average of 30-odd, although he has picked up, with his quirky legspin, 30-odd wickets.
No, this year has been about the sum of his various essences, on the field. He has been in everyone’s face – mildly threatening, breaking through, scoring crucial runs, turning games, playing games within games, cheerleading, celebrating, fingers never far from floppy hair, always in the game and, usually, right in the thick of it. Even when fielding afar on the boundary, he has been in it, openly asking batsmen to run seconds and test his arm. Rarely, and never this prolonged, has his machismo seemed so alive, so vivid, so contagious on the field.
Perversely now, the Kanpur blitz might not be the best thing, given the impact his very first international innings had on him and the definition it has thrust. A 37-ball 100 – or a 45-ball one – is scarcely believable in a mohalla against kids, let alone in an international match. Not many people have seen what he did on October 4, 1996, but most remember it and many live in constant expectation of repeats.
Afridi’s memories of it are understandably hazy. “I hit a couple of good sixes off Murali. I was just told to play my game. I had no idea what had happened when I got back to the dressing room. The boys came to congratulate me on my world record but I had no idea what it meant until I got back to Pakistan.”
The innings weighs heavily on him, like the Kanpur one might now, gently haunting his career. “I still have pressure on me to perform like that every time I step out to bat. It’s too much, people always expecting it from me. I’m learning now just to contribute to the team and not be a burden on them.” This he said the night before his Kanpur innings, and if people were coming to terms with his mortality then, they might not be anymore.
That innings in Kenya also changed his core as a cricketer. Until that day Afridi was a legspinner who could throw his bat; in his own words, he was a “zabardast” bowler. He was called to the Pakistan squad in Nairobi as replacement for Mushtaq Ahmed, fresh from a 10-wicket haul as vice-captain against West Indies U-19 in Barbados.
Until then, he had progressed on the strength of his bowling. He moved to Karachi from Peshawar, where he was born, in 1982. Street cricket beckoned and eventually, so too did Shadab Cricket Club, one of the biggest in Karachi. Afridi was spotted and picked for Karachi U-19. In the 1995-96 season, he emerged as leading wicket-taker, and moderate run-scorer, in the National Juniors Cup. Salim Altaf, then chief selector, called him to the senior squad, lack of first-class experience regardless. “I used to work harder on my bowling – that was what I was, but after that innings, the focus changed completely,” Afridi explains. Even after he broke into the national team, then, no one was quite sure what he might be better at!
Above all, the Kenya innings changed his life. To have achieved what he did at the age of 16, to receive the acclaim, adulation, the trappings of celebrity, you’re bound to, as he admits, “get messed up a little”. It didn’t help either, that there was no one to groom him, advise him, protect him, keep him grounded and help him lead as normal a life as possible. “You know, if one or two people are trying to help you, it’s not so bad. But if, like in Pakistan, the whole country has an opinion, who do you listen to? Everyone has their own advice here.”
He derailed, leading a “mad life. It was quite disturbed. I was going out a lot, night and day, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, losing focus on the game.” Many thought him too arrogant. But somehow, as he stumbled along, as so many errant sportsmen admirably – albeit tediously – do, reformation came.
Off the field, as on it, Afridi doesn’t do stillness – moving, fidgeting, playing with his iPod, the TV remote, the voice recorder, his hair, something, anything. In everything, “thori jaldi hai,” (“there is urgency”): scoring runs, interviews, meals, talking. Although nothing about his physical demeanour suggests it, he says he is more relaxed now, so he must be talking of peace of mind. This new-found calm was apparent once during the India series, ironically at Kanpur. At the non-striker’s end he stood, in the 14th over, approaching his 100, both arms with gloves off, swinging freely. Apart from that, he was still, maybe this time taking in, understanding, what he was accomplishing.
“I am more relaxed now. I’ll keep playing and enjoying cricket and lose sleep the night before a game. But off the field, I won’t let it cause tension anymore.” And if he gets dropped again? “No masla. It happens.” Maybe it is, as he says, marriage and kids that have “provided discipline and maturity”. As if to prove it, a beard resides on his still-boyish visage.
I ask him – I don’t know why other than for affirmation – whether he is a patient man. He laughs. “If I was, would I bat the way I did?” His batting probably mirrors his personality more than for most cricketers. There is no refinement in attitude or judgement, just manic rush; his love for hitting the ball overpowers any other emotion.
In most of Afridi’s strokes there seems little sophistication. Most, but not all; when he hits straight, high or skimming the grass, he has no technique – as most know the term. The hand-eye coordination, straightness of blade – and the firmness of intention behind it – render technique impotent as they did when he brought up his 50 in Kanpur with a defensive push, arrow-straight down the ground off Zaheer Khan. Next ball, as if vindictively, he reverted to a hideous, shameless cross-batted slog near midwicket for six.
His forearms are not Popeye-esque, but they aren’t far off. And though reports of the bone-crunching strength of his handshake may have been exaggerated, there is frightening power in his wrists. Among his record 204 sixes in ODIs, a recent one stands out. It was to a goodish-length ball from Shane Watson in the VB series final at Melbourne, and Afridi met it outside off, crouching, with a little flick of his wrists. It was a quasi-sweep but it sailed over. In India, off his hips, thighs and toes, to square or fine leg, he flicked with the best of them. Sometimes he square-drove or cut, and fleetingly he appeared conventional.
Not that it matters to him. “Cricket has changed. This is not the age of Hanif Mohammad – no disrespect – where feet must move with the bat like in a manual. You look at players like [Abdul] Razzaq or [Sanath] Jayasuriya who defy all that.” Coaches have come, tried and left, Afridi has remained Afridi. “I don’t listen because I have played like this forever. My batting has been maar-dhaar from childhood. I loved hitting the ball then and do so now.
Shahid Afridi Pictures