Dear Mr. Afridi,
Congratulations on making yet another fabulous comeback to international cricket. Walking in with half the side dismissed for just 47 runs in your return game couldnt have been easy. Especially since you had played sporadically (four one-dayers) this year and dont consider yourself a batsman anymore. But this,after all,was your comeback match. And in comeback matches,you are unstoppable.
The 55-ball 76 was straight out of the leaves of your early career and the 7/12 slashed records along the way. You now own the best bowling figures for a spinner in the history of one-day cricket,one that quite like that fastest ton on debut may just last the test of time. Unfortunately,the same cannot be said about your form following the grand comeback.
Again,you were the Man of the Match. Of course you were. In a career where you have been dropped five times,each of the returns have been marked with you being the standout player of the match.
You were one of stalwarts from the 2003 World Cup squad to be axed after the loss to India. But when India visited your land in 2004,you were picked for the Rawalpindi ODI. You opened and scored a 58-ball 80 to give Pakistan a 12-run win. But you wouldnt score a total of 80 runs over your next eight innings. And that has been the true story of your comebacks.
In June 2010,for the Asia Cup,you made your second comeback with a century against Sri Lanka in the opening game. Then,for the first time,you followed it up two games later with a hundred against Bangladesh. 2010 would become 2011 and in the 14 innings in between,you wouldnt score a total of 200 runs,let alone a century again.
In your third comeback and the fourth,you returned with two MoMs with the ball 3/27 vs Sri Lanka,2011,and 5/36 vs Afghanistan,2012. But very soon,you wouldnt take a total of five wickets in the 15 matches leading up to the next drop,what with you going wicketless 11 times.
Now you have returned with seven,in one game. Yes,half the West Indies side hadnt ever played your skiddy,rocketing leg breaks before and yes,such record breaking performances are hard to sustain. But in this comeback of yours,the fifth and perhaps the final one,will we see you,Shahid Khan Afridi,approach every game with the same hunger? With the same intensity of a return game? Or is this the beginning of the same old cycle?
Aditya is a principal correspondent based in New Delhi firstname.lastname@example.org