Born, a Pathan, in a tribal areas near Afghanistan, where the word of the Afridis was the law, Shahid Afridi considers gun toting 12 year olds as "part of the culture". Shooting a gun is a "normal thing" to him and he often goes to a shooting range near the Afghanistan border to fire M16s.
Not known to put any amounts of thought in his decisions and actions, he himself has no clue what he would do next. When asked about his approach to batting, he once said that he always aims to play out 3-5 overs before going for his shots. There is no evidence that he has actually ever done that. What he plans and what he executes are completely distinct things. However he is quick to admit that even if he plans to play out the initial overs, if he does see a hittable ball, first up, he naturally finds himself going after it. So much for having a plan.
Like Sehwag he can turn a test match with a few moments of Afridi-style madness. In a Test match in India, that was going nowhere after the sides had scored more than a thousand runs in the first innings, he scored a 26 ball 50 in the second innings and then returned the next day to claim VVS Laxman, Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, to consign India to a shock defeat. India's batting might was unable to secure a series clinching draw in the face of Afridi's onslaught.
Pakistan never really put their faith in him as a Test player but they backed him to lead them in the 2011 World Cup over his exact opposite in terms of style and temperament, Misbah-Ul-Haq. The decision that seemed ill advised at that point, proved quite the opposite.
Shahid Afridi led Pakistan admirably and honorably. En route to the World Cup semi-finals they lost only one game and as was with the semi-finals the reason was the same. Dropped catches. For Shahid Afridi and Pakistan this will be one World Cup miss that will hurt for a long time.
Right through the World Cup, Shahid Afridi was refreshing as a leader, always smiling in front of his opponents while constantly cajoling his players. His trademark X man stance on taking wickets and catches is going to be an enduring image of this World Cup. Had Pakistan won it all; and they sure came close to do that; it would have remained in public memory like Johnty's run out of Inzamam-Ul-Haq.
Even through the high tension game against India, Afridi never seemed to forget that it was after all, just a game of cricket. He was cordial with everyone on the Indian team and did his part to ensure that emotionally charged sentiments from the outside, did not spill over on the field by engaging in more than one ways with his Indian opponents.
Whether it was a pat on the back to Sachin for surviving a catch a glance and a knowing smile at Zaheer while batting, offering his greetings after an Indian win, Shahid Afridi finally made me understand why he is most beloved in his country.