Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opinions on... Shahid Khan Afridi

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Shahid Afridi is a joy to watch. Like Virendra Sehwag his game is untouched by modern coaching techniques. Both offer such tremendous value to their teams that often strategies are formed around the pure skills they offer. Both have evolved their skills, keeping a strong connection to their roots and culture.

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.

Shahid Afridi
True to his character, he announced his decision to quit test cricket and then realized he had done a foolish thing. He was back in a fortnight. Its a pity he has not played many Test matches, because talents like him can truly flourish in the free formats of Test cricket. Limited overs cricket is too restrictive for men like Shahid Afridi and Virendra Sehwag.

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.

See also...

  1. Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar
  2. Portraits: Shahid Khan Afridi
  3. It's Dhoni's turn


Leela said...

I was pleasantly surprised by Afridi's behavior during this tournament and especially during the match against India; he stayed calm despite the dropped catches and that's what ensured that his bowlers kept taking wicktes and never looked demoralized.

As far as batting goes, I think Sehwag is incomparable and leagues ahead of Afridi!

Golandaaz said...

Agreed, the comparison is purely their approach to the game.

Anonymous said...

Beloved in his country?

Is he the same quy who tried to stomp on the pitch amd rough it up against England when he thought no one was looking?

Is he the one who tried to bite the seam off the ball against Australia using his hands and the bowler as a cover for hiding that fact? Was he the captain then?

Simply, he is a big-time cheat and a whacko. While cheating, he can also roll his arm and swing the bat.

Can we please not get caught up in this week's ridiculous indo-pak bonhomie?

straight point said...

i am sure the most powerful politicians from india and pakistan present in ground got nothing to do with it... ;)

Golandaaz said...

Hi SP,

So you are acusing the politicians of actually doing something good :-)

Anon, he can do all those things (cheating) and still be loved in his country. As for getting caught up in anything, Afridi has been admirable right through the tournament...

Anonymous said...

A 'portrait' piece on Afridi that skips those incidents is no portrait - however good the sketch.

An 'opinion' piece on Afridi that misses out commenting on the cheating aspects is only half-baked...

Anon ki aisi ki taisi, but you can do better grod!

Golandaaz said...

so the first anon was not the real anon? :-)

Anonymous said...

very much the same one. became anon around 1996? or maybe even earlier...pata hi nahi chala!

Anonymous said...

on a slightly separate note, can you make any sense out of this article? (i couldn't)

Golandaaz said...

trying to justify why these kashmiris support the Pak cricket team. wasn't convincing at all

Unknown said...

good afridi

Unknown said...

i still love pakistani team specially you afridi don't be disapoint you worked hard hats off to you well done.

pay per head service said...

haha this is so interesting and peculiar and I would say that funny too because my best friend also considers Shahid Khan Afridi as a joy to watch LOL