Title: Game Changer
Authors: Shahid Afridi and Wajahat S. Khan
Reviewed by: Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
Ever since he made his one-day international (ODI) debut in 1996, Shahid Afridi has been a prolific player of Pakistan’s cricket team. The autobiography Game Changer is co-written by Wajahat S. Khan, Pakistan’s critically acclaimed broadcast journalist. Wasim Akram, Pakistan cricket team’s former captain and the first bowler in history to take 400 wickets in ODIs and Tests, writes the foreword.
Game Changer looks at Shahid Afridi’s transition from a child to a teenager, then explores his desire to become a cricketer, analyzes how he overcame challenges, eventually discussing the international cricket career that was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride both for himself and for cricket fans.
Game Changer looks at a number of events and incidents occurring in Shahid Afridi’s life that make him dwell on his weaknesses. Afridi ponders upon the challenges he faced as a newcomer and as an all-rounder.
In the book’s preface, Wajahat S. Khan aptly sums up Afridi’s stature as a batsman: “The Butcher. The Beast. The Boy Wonder. The Boom Boom. Our game, his way. That’s what he played.” Wajahat S. Khan looks back at Afridi’s debut. He writes, “Both of us were in our teens. He was on a lush ground in Nairobi, running his gloves through the hair flopping over his eyes, glancing over his shoulder like someone who had thrown a rock at him from the stands behind square leg. This would become his habit over the years; his nervous, over-the-shoulder twitch, as if an enemy sniper was lurking in the stands.”
The book explores the love affair Shahid Afridi had with cricket since childhood when he used to think whether he was good enough to play for Pakistan. Shahid Afridi writes, “My cricket fever was intense in those days. About three or four nights every week, before I slept, prior to any game or even at practice sessions, I dreamt with my eyes open. I visualized entire matches, all in my head - I’m walking into a stadium, the crowd is cheering. I’m slamming sixes...I dreamt that I was the new Imran Khan.”
Game Changer is a finely written narrative of Shahid Afridi’s life and career penned in the form of a story where each chapter examines a specific side to Afridi’s career and off-the-field incidents. The books also reveal Shahid Afridi’s scrimmage with Javed Miandad, which to the readers will show two sides of the coin. Then there are incidents that Afridi includes in the book showing the dark side of dressing room politics to even grave issues such as match-fixing and spot-fixing.
Game Changer is a must read for all cricket fans, especially those who admire Shahid Afridi despite his unpredictable performances.
There are 38 chapters in Game Changer. Each one opens with a hook, a piece of information that cannot be ignored and a paragraph that must be read. Wajahat S. Khan has done a tremendous job using the right words at the right place, hence proving his mettle not just as an author and journalist but as a storyteller as well. Game Changer dwells on Afridi’s inclusion and exclusion from the team, his rise to glory as captain, his ability to change the game within seconds and his impulsive character that, despite making him lose his wickets early at a number of occasions, gave him a cult following which no cricketer enjoyed before him. Do read the book and learn so much more about Shahid Afridi and his life.
The writer is an independent researcher, author and columnist.