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Rediscovering Shahid Afridi : The Sky’s the Limit

November 4, 2009

Shahid Afridi is the most exciting cricketer in ODI’s. He’ll either smash the fastest century in history, or maintain a strike rate of 300 off just a couple balls before being caught out. So for Pakistan his presence could mean massive game winning runs, or for the opposition, a quick, key wicket early on. Either way, it’s extremely suspenseful excitement for both teams and all fans watching that no other player offers.

What’s even more exciting is that Afiridi’s no longer a novice. He’s been around 10+ years but hasn’t received the kind of acclaim his potential commands. He’s overlooked as merely an inexperienced slogger because no one really expects him to last more than a couple overs. But in this years 20/20 World Cup and today’s ODI, Afridi asserted himself as the quintessential all rounder.

One shouldn’t underestimate tight fielding, very effective bowling, and competitive spirit Afridi harnessed over the years . Because even when he’s inconsistent at bat, his wealth of periphery contributions have led to victory, proving he’s so much more than just a slogger.

In today’s match versus New Zeland he demonstrated maturity by chalking up roughly just 50% percent of runs off boundaries when Pakistan was 70 for 4, and taking key wickets, almost getting a hat trick. Doubters take note: Afridi is entirely capable of playing a solid, consistent, and well rounded game.

His volatile career can partially be attributed to laughable PCB selection processes and mediocre coaching. Because the past decade of Pakistani cricket has been defined by arbitrary player selections and coaches irrationally shuffling the lineup.

Counter productive, yo-yo operations assigned Afridi everywhere from opener, middle order and tail end batsman without giving him sufficient time to play where he is most effective. His natural game is aggressive and valuable at the mid to lower end for two reasons. Firstly, although he’s had trouble with spinners, he’s deadly when attacking a worn down ball from a medium paced bowler. Secondly, Afridi’s style isn’t conducive to requirements of an opener. Opening bat imposes a pressure for a deep concentration and patience.

Because Pakistan is often inconsistent and has yet to decide on solid openers, this leaves middle and lower end batsman required to chalk up significant runs when openers don’t hack it. And that kind of pressure requires rapid, hard hitting runs on a grand scale from severely limited balls that only Afridi can produce. He thrives on such conditions, rising to the occasion and leading Pakistan to victories like today’s.

Not to mention his consistent bowling. He always maintains a good economy and although he’s not a strike bowler, he quite often strikes wickets. In today’s match he patiently maintained line and length despite going without a wicket for a few overs, eventually taking out Daniel Vettori who looked dangerous with a 90+ strike rate.

Key to such effective bowling is Afridi’s deadly variation in speed. He has the unique ability to throw batsmen off their game by changing up bowling pace buttressed by an equally menacing competitive spirit. He’ll bowl 3 slow balls, and the next one faster than even Razzaq’s fastest. Some fast bowlers change up’s aren’t even as fast as his.

Plus he disguises the changeup very well: batsmen don’t know if he’s going to throw a googly, leg spin, or just throw a fast one with no turn at all. Afridi doesn’t allow batsmen liberty to anticipate a ball, hence his consistently good economy. Side note: Tendulkar is also good at this.

There’s no doubt Afridi’s a talented cricketer. But the past year we’ve seen a mature Afridi harness his game and emerge as a strong leader against world class teams. With the Pakistan team in what seems like a constant transitional phase, Afridi has risen to all occasions maintaing a powerful game and vivid energy that is key to supporting youngsters like Umar Gul and Kamran Akmal as we saw in today’s match.

So kudos to Ramiz Raja for finally addressing skipper Younus Khan about his lacking performance after today’s match. It’s high time Pakistan found a new captain, and i think Afridi has earned a shot at the position.

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5 comments

  1. Love this article, and I thought you just wrote well on Politics ! afridi is a great criciter, had he been in India or Australia he would have been one of the worlds greatest. ( he still is ) I remember in 2000 he had answered to a question from me,, why are you so inconsistent I had asked
    : Zain Bahi, if I get a six they praise me, if I get out they demote me, no one , but Javed Bahi ( Javed Miandad ) ever guides me” that is a sad statement… sorry for Pakistan, sorry for Afridi…

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  2. Afridi:
    Pakistan’s cricket seems to rise and fall with Afridi’s bat and ball.
    While cricket is a team sport, it takes 11 great players playing together to chaulk up a victory but it is also a game where one person can have an immediate devastating effect.
    That is the exquisiteness of cricket, itis a team game that depends on an outstanding or out of the world performance of just one Great Batsman or Bowler to achieve victory.
    In Shahid you have an amalgam of the bat and bowl poviding a synergy that generates a blinding bolt of lightning which confounds the opposing team and showers fans with monsoon rains.
    Afreen to Afridi.

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  3. […] the natural progression of the game and Tests are inevitably obsolete, bring on a few more Shahid Afridi’s […]

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  4. […] Jayasuriya: RIGHT ON: Only one player has hit more sixes than him, and that’s Shahid Afridi, whose average is of course expectedly lower than Jasuriya’s. So having the power, presence […]

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  5. […] 14 years, of ups and downs, which have been a sad series of “downs” in the past few years. When Shahid Afridi first joined the team and scored the Worlds Fastest Century in the nineties, I was captivated; you […]

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