The End Of Afridi Era

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I want to live up to the expectations from my fans. I want a happy ending.”-Shahid Afridi.

From being an opener in the 1990s to batting at as low as number seven and emerging as a world class bowler, this man has done it all for his team. Shahid Afridi symbolized an era of Pakistani cricket that came to a somewhat unbefitting end, on March 20, when Pakistan was ousted from ICC Cricket World Cup by the Aussies in the third quarter-final of the tournament.

Afridi had announced his retirement from the ODI format beforehand, and yesterday the curtains on the career of “the most flamboyant cricketer of the world” were finally drawn. Afridi belonged to a rare breed of cricketers who played solely to entertain his audience. In 1996, he left the cricket world by storm, by smashing the fastest ODI hundred, a record that no-one could break for eighteen long years. Thereafter, whenever Afridi played, the crowds expected him to set the stadium on fire with his bat. He has struck more number of sixes in international cricket than anyone else.

But, Afridi’s ingenuity lay not just with the bat. He was truly an all-rounder. Albeit he discovered his affinity with the ball later, but once he did, there was no looking back. In the 2011 World Cup, in which Afridi led the Pakistani team as the captain, he became the leading wicket-taker of the tournament along with Zaheer Khan. He fell five wickets short of the 400 mark, as he took 395 wickets in his ODI career, which leaves him fifth among the all-time highest wicket takers in ODIs. True to the characteristic trait of the Afridi tribe in the rough terrains of Peshawar, Afridi showed both the warrior-like mentality and valour on the cricket field. He was a player who could turn a game on its head with his all-round abilities.

But the man, who once made the pulse of his nation race just by setting foot on the cricket field, did not have a fairytale ending to what was truly a splendid career. Afridi, 35, who scored 8,064 runs in his 398 one-day internationals, could have been the only all-rounder with over 8,000 one-day runs and 400 wickets. But that was not to happen. He had started slowly slipping down in the last two years, and finally bowed out of one-day international cricket with an unfulfilled dream, yesterday. In the last 47 matches, he managed to pick only 49 wickets, at a costly average of 40.53, something that hurt Pakistan on numerous occasions. Afridi continued to create magic, with the bat, though, for since January 2013, he struck an impressive 989 runs.

However, from the very start of this World Cup, the Afridi that the world had hitherto known seemed to be missing. He failed to conquer both the bat and the ball; picking just two wickets in seven matches, and scoring a rather abysmal 116 in seven matches. It was perhaps because of his stature that he was not dropped from Pakistan’s World Cup squad, in the first place.

But will Afridi’s immense contribution to international cricket be diminished by the blips of the last two years? The answer is an unequivocal no! Afridi will be remembered as a legend in his own right. As one of the leading news websites puts it, “there are good cricketers, there are legends and then there is Shahid Afridi.”

Sanya Dhingra

Image Source: The Viewspaper

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