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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Shadid Afridi: The ageless

Cricket will miss Shahid Afridi, the crafty campaigner who never seemed to run out of steam

By: Editorial |
Updated: February 21, 2017 11:01:18 am
shahdi afridi, pakistan cricketer, afridi retirement, shahid afridi retirement, sports news, cricket Cricket will miss Shahid Afridi, the crafty campaigner who never seemed to run out of steam. (file photo)

When Shahid Afridi burst into the cricketing world, as the 18-year-old who made the fastest ODI hundred ever, several in his country saw in him traces of the next Imran Khan. He, like Imran, had an effervescence about him, a swagger, and even arrogance. But in Afridi’s hour of departure — after two decades of cricket at the highest level, several statistical accomplishments, occasional tantrums and phantom retirements — it’s the virtues of Imran’s contemporary, Javed Miandad, that Afridi embodies. The adjectives decreed for Afridi are the ones extended to Miandad: Cunning, clever, crafty.

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By the middle phase of his career, perceptions about Afridi had changed. From a precociously-talented, trigger-happy batsman and part-time leggie, he evolved into a clever leg-spinner capable of occasional cameos, depending on his mood. In that sense he is a contradiction — while he underachieved with the bat (still good enough to end up with 8064 runs), he overachieved with the ball. His batting never reached the heady potential it was predicted to possess, but his bowling — innocuous leg-breaks, that had more fizz than turn — reached the heights it was hardly projected to reach. To be the third highest-taker of Pakistan in ODIs, just behind Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and above more guileful spinners is no small achievement. He was also the first spinner who cracked the T20 code (alas, his IPL romance was fleeting), and he was unsurprisingly Pakistan’s champion in their remarkable T20 World Cup triumph in 2009 — where his batting was as ebullient as his bowling.

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For cricket romantics across the border, he was the last connect to the late ‘90s. For a long time, though, he seemed timeless. Even as he grew older and acquired a finely manicured beard, he seemed ageless, as though he had discovered the fabled elixir of youth. Perhaps that’s the best way to capture him on his cricketing epitaph: Afridi, the ageless.

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