Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shahid Afridi

Full name Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi
Born March 1, 1980, Khyber Agency
Playing role Allrounder
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Legbreak googly

Of Shahid Afridi it can safely be said that cricket never has and never will see another like him. To say he is an allrounder is to say Albert Einstein was a scientist; it tells a criminally bare story.

For a start, the slant of his all-round skills only became clear ten years into his career; he is a leg-spinning allrounder. Variety is his calling and as well as a traditional leg-break, he has two googlies, a conventional offie and a lethal faster one, though this is increasingly rare. All come with the threat of considerable, late drift. He fairly hustles through overs, which in limited-over formats is a weapon in itself and the package is dangerous.

But forever associated with him will be his madcap batting, the prospect of which is a crowd-puller the world over. He is a compulsive basher, literally unable to control his urges to slog every ball that comes his way, and not much of it is classical. Often spectacular results are at hand; he owns, for example, two of the fastest ODI hundreds, including the fastest one ever in his first innings ever at the age of 16. His career strike rates are nearly unmatched. But mostly, anywhere in the order, consistency has been missing.

Despite a healthy Test career, he gave up on the format in 2006, pre-empting men such as Andrew Flintoff, to maximise fully a limited-overs career. He came back, in inimitable fashion, for one Test only, as captain no less in 2010. A loss and two slogs meant he re-retired immediately after. Twenty20 is something he could've been made for and he is among the most lethal players of the format, having been player of the tournament for the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 in 2007 and led Pakistan to the title two years later with matchwinning all-round hands in the semi and final.

Maturity has often threatened to gatecrash his career and leadership was a just reward, though it was taken away from him in 2011 after an immature spat; another retirement was announced but none of it will change much a truly unique career.

October 4, 1996 : Fitting debut to a kamikaze career
In his second ODI, and in his first innings, Shahid Afridi, all of 16 years and 217 days old, marches in with Waqar Younis' bat in hand, and blasts the reigning world champions for the fastest ever 100 in ODI cricket. His smasha-thon brings up three figures in 37 balls. Its' not everyday that one ends up with a scoring sequence that reads 0610400600661166264400661411041606024100, leave alone on debut. 

October 6, 1996 : And he can bowl as well
His whirlwind innings had helped Pakistan to the final of the ODI tournament in Nairobi, where they are comprehensively outplayed by South Africa. Still, there is enough time to serve notice about his other skill. Bowling fastish legspin, he picks 3 for 48, as South Africa coast to a win. 

November 1, 1996 : Pakistan's Jayasuriya
Brutalises Zimbabwe for a 37-ball 66 to claim his second Man-of-the-Match award, in his fifth ODI. Four sixes and eight fours are struck in an innings that confirms that Nairobi was no flash in the pan.

January 18, 1997 : An allrounder is born
Contributes a tight three wicket-haul and a rampant half-century to give Pakistan the lead in the Carlton & United Series final in Sydney. Pakistan go on to win the series.

September 30, 1997 : Afridi and Indian bowling - the one-sided love story begins
Takes a strong liking to the Indian attack, in his first of several onslaughts on them. Slams 72 in quick time in a Karachi ODI, and follows it up with another assault in Lahore, though his efforts were overshadowed on both occasions - by a Pakistan defeat, and by the innings of Ijaz Ahmed's life, respectively. 

September 19, 1998 : The Toronto tormentor
Stuns India to a resounding defeat in the Sahara Cup with his second ODI ton. Six sixes and seven fours are smashed en route to 109 off 94 balls, in the third consecutive win after being 0-1 down. 

October 22-26, 1998 : A mixed debut in Test cricket
Fails with bat in both digs against Australia, but only after announcing himself in the longest version with a five-for in Australia's first innings. As unpredictable as they come, it sets the tone for a stop-start Test career that was a whirl of unpredictable highs and inevitable lows.

January 28-31, 1999 :  Scripting an epic
In a thriller best remembered for Sachin Tendulkar's exceptional hundred and the Chennai crowd's standing ovation, Afridi contributes a vital three-for and a sensational 141 that gives Pakistan the narrowest of wins.

October 27, 2000 : Allround dominance
Bullies England with ball and bat to give Pakistan a series-levelling win in Lahore. Follows up 5 for 40, with a brisk 61 to seal an easy win and the Man-of-the-Match award.

August 13, 2001 : Success in the Old Blighty
Caps off a spectacular maiden stint with Leicestershire with a match-winning effort to take his side to the C & G final. Later he would say: "I went out to bat looking to survive the first 15 overs and then hit out later in the innings. Then we lost the wickets and I thought I should go on the attack and play my natural game."

February 7-11, 2002 : A rare Test hundred
Returns to the national Test side after 14 months in the sidelines, and brings up a century in his favourite hunting ground - Sharjah.

May 1-3, 2002 : A whimper, a temporary goodbye to whites
The Test renaissance does not last long. He is out first ball opening the innings, while the team goes on to amass 643, en route a massive innings and 324 run victory against New Zealand. Does not get much of a bowl either and is discarded from the Test team for nearly 32 months.

March 13, 2003 : The first of many controversies
Follows a dismal World Cup showing with a ban from the following Sharjah tournament. Is also fined 50% of his match fees for sledging Indian batsmen during his side's defeat in Centurion.

March 16, 2004 : A stirring comeback
Hits back hard after being dropped from the side in the aftermath of a disastrous World Cup. Bashes his favourite attack, India, for a 58-ball 80, setting up a win to draw level in a famous ODI series.

March 24-28, 2005 : A famous win against the greatest rival
Six years after playing his hand in the Chennai epic, he is back in the thick of things in a Test match on Indian soil - and in typical style, begins his match with a first-ball duck. He puts it behind him to strike a 34-ball 58 during the chase for a quick second-innings lead and then comes back with the ball to rip the heart out of India's middle order - Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman - to ensure a famous win in Bangalore. 

April 15, 2005 : India suffer again in Kanpur
Hits his most savage hundred since debut. Carts India to all corners of the Green Park stadium in Kanpur en route a 46-ball 102 - joint second-fastest ever in terms of balls faced.

May 31, 2005 : A key figure in team politics
Involved in a heated dressing-room exchange between Younis Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Player politics were always a huge factor in Pakistan cricket, but this was the first time Afridi got inexorably drawn into it.

November 21, 2005 : Another tryst with controversy
Is caught blatantly scuffing up the pitch in an attempt to help his side's bowlers during the Faisalabad Test against England. Is handed a three-match ban for his efforts and a warning by the PCB.

January 21-25, 2006 : Boom boom at home
Lashes his favourite attack for two more brutal hundreds on featherbeds tailormade for stalemates. Follows up a 80-ball 103 in Lahore, with a 128-ball 156 in Faisalabad.

April 12, 2006 :  "I've had enough with the whites"
In a totally unexpected move, announces his 'temporary retirement' from Test cricket, in order to concentrate on ODIs leading up to the 2007 World Cup. Leaves open the chance of a comeback by saying he would rethink the decision after the World Cup. Does not surprise too many when he reverses his decision a fortnight later.

Feb 7, 2007 : A late overs ambush
Does what he does best, against South Africa in South Africa. Comes in at 222 for 4 in the 39th over. 35 balls, five fours, six sixes and 77 unbeaten runs later, Pakistan finish at 351. Picks three wickets too to inflict a crushing defeat on one of the best ODI sides in their own backyard.

Feb 10, 2007 : Another controversy, another ban
The performance in Durban comes days after another date with controversy - this time, for striking a spectator after being dismissed in the previous ODI. Belatedly earns a two-match ban that curtails his impact in the World Cup drastically. Pakistan bow out after the group stages.

May 18, 2007 : Chasing under pressure… What pressure?
At 137 for 5 in 31.3 overs, chasing 236 against the Sri Lankan spinners, not many would have put their money on Pakistan. Afridi finished the match in the next 10 overs, unleashing mayhem all around the Sheik Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The Man-of-the-match performance, for the 16th time in his ODI career, included eight fours and four sixes in a 34-ball 73.

September 2-24, 2007 : Best Twenty20 cricketer in the world
Wins the Player of the Series award in the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa, scoring at a strike rate of almost 200, and taking 12 wickets at an economy rate of 6.71. However, he messes up the final with a first-ball duck as Pakistan lose to India by five runs.

April 22, 2009 : Spinning it big
Lets his lesser known skill take centrestage against Australia in oppressive conditions. Picks 6 for 38, sending them into a tailspin, from 95 for 1 to 168 all out. Earns Pakistan a rare ODI win against the world champions.

June 7-21, 2009 : Man for the big occasion
Two outstanding performances in the semis and final make Pakistan the world Twenty20 champions. Afridi scores a calm 34-ball 51 and takes 2 for 16 against favourites South Africa in the semi-finals, and then guides his team to the championship with an unbeaten 54 in the final against Sri Lanka.

January 31, 2010 :  Biting the bullet
Commits probably the most bizarre infraction ever seen on a cricket field when, in full view of cameras, he bites into the ball in the closing stages of the final ODI during a forgettable tour to Australia. Later admits to his folly and earns a two-match ban. The PCB later fines him Rupees 3 million and puts him on a six-month probation.
May 19, 2011 : Stripped of ODI captaincy
After leading Pakistan in 34 ODIs - of which they won 18 and lost 15 - Afridi is removed from captaincy in favour of Misbah-ul-Haq. Ijaz Butt, the board chairman, says there were "solid reasons" behind the decision.

May 30, 2011 : Another conditional retirement
Angered by the treatment meted out to him by the Pakistan board, Afridi announces his conditional retirement from international cricket, saying he will return only when a new board come into power.

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