In the last four years our beloved Shahid Khan Afridi seems to have come of age
In the last four years, from 2010 to 2014, our beloved Shahid Khan Afridi seems to have come of age -- finally. In these four years, he has given more match-winning performances than he did in his first fourteen years of international cricket -- from 1996 to 2010.
There have been two major changes in his cricket. In the first fourteen years, he was never considered a match-winning bowler. But in the last four years, he has performed admirably with the ball. He has been the second most successful bowler of the team in these years. On the top has been, of course, Saeed Ajmal. Secondly, in the first phase he batted well mostly as an opener. He rarely scored when he was sent down the order. But in the last four years, he has played so many fascinating innings batting in the lower order.
He scored 109 off 76 balls against Sri Lanka in June 2010, batting at number six (Pakistan lost the match narrowly). In the same tournament, he scored 124 against Bangladesh off 60 balls, again batting at number six. Pakistan won the match Pakistan by a big margin.
Then in Abu Dhabi against South Africa later that year, he scored 49 runs off 40 balls while batting at number six. This was a major contribution to the victory, but it was overshadowed by Abdul Razzaq’s whirlwind century.
In January 2011, against New Zealand, batting at number seven, he scored 65 off just 25 balls. Pakistan won the match by 43 runs. Without the acceleration provided by Afridi late in the innings, Pakistan would have lost the match.
One of the best performances of his career came in November 2011, when he scored 75 off 65 balls while batting at number seven against Sri Lanka, giving Pakistan a respectable total of 200. Pakistan had lost seven wickets for just 120. Then he took five wickets to derail Sri Lanka’s chase. He had already turned into a match-winning bowler in the 2011 World Cup when he topped the bowling chart by taking 21 wickets from eight matches.
In March 2013, when Pakistan were chasing an improbable 344 against South Africa, he scored 88 runs off just 48 balls while batting at number seven. Unfortunately, Pakistan lost the match despite his effort.
The best-ever all-round performance in ODI cricket came in July 2013 when he lifted Pakistan from 47 for five against West Indies to 224 in 50 overs, scoring 76 off 55 balls and then tore apart the West Indian batting line, dismissing as many as seven of their batsman. I don’t know if Imran, Hadlee, Botham or Kapil ever turned a match around in a similar fashion.
Earlier this year, he gave two more match-winning performances. First, he scored 34 off just 18 balls, hitting two sixes in the last over, bowled by Ashwin, to snatch victory from India. Then he hit 59 off only 25 balls, striking as many as seven sixes, to enable Pakistan to chase down a big target set by Bangladesh. He broke the hearts of millions of Bengali cricket buffs certainly. He was merciless!
Let’s hope he goes higher and higher in the coming years and take Pakistan to victory in the next two World Cups, in one of which he will be leading the Green-shirts.