I was in sixth grade when the cricket enthusiasm actually took on me. Initially, when I had intense cricket fever, I decided to organise a survey in my institute, to know who the most loved cricketing personality is, in my school. So I started wandering randomly in different classrooms, asking boys who their favourite player is.
Some liked Younus Khan due to his sheer brilliance and consistency in the Test cricket. Few gave their opinion in the favour of Imran Nazir due to his blistering and fierce approach towards the game. Several loved Umar Gul for his pin-point yorkers in the death overs, but the majority had only one name on their tongue, Shahid Afridi.
It amazed me and increased my curiosity to know what kind of aura he actually brings into his game which makes him greatly distinct from the other players.
Was it because of the incredible consistency in his performance? No, not really, an all-rounder averaging around 24 with the bat and 30 with the ball is not really an exceptional performer. Was he among the finest leaders? It was neither that case because he didn’t have very remarkable stint as captain of my national side.
Then why was the impact evident on his shadow? Why the crowd couldn’t control their nerves whenever they saw him on the screen? Why that man carried the burden of millions hopes on his shoulders when he entered the arena? Why does Afridism caused sensation of goosebumps in our generation?
By doing a research on my query and having a close eye on his gameplay in the different international games, I shared the opinion with the majority of my school.
Afridi was a powerhouse; his presence on the field had strange kind of effect on the attitude of opponents. He could change the game in instant, for his team or in the favour of opposition.
Many of the players excelling at the statistics, couldn’t gain the match-winning trait in their resume throughout their career, but then there was Afridi, who carried that flair right from the start of his career.
Tearing down the opposition by tremendous sixes, shattering stumps with accurate drift and magical googlies, the anger behind the helmet like the fatality on the lion’s face before attacking his hunter, chasing and grabbing the ball as if recalling Rhodes heroics on the field, Afridi had all the kinds of attribute the game demands.
From that time to the present, I had a very close eye on his game. Alas, what a sensation he would have become if he lived up his potential to the fullest.
He had some major drawbacks in his game, some major drawbacks. Those flaws became a hurdle to the ultimate glory.
Most of the times, he opted for a reckless approach regardless of the situation. Afridi was a player driven by emotions, not by the realistic nature of the ongoing circumstance.
There were times when the team required his stability and patience on the crease. But rather, he chose to win the battle even before it started. Yes, he was enthusiastic, passionate and eager, but there are situations in which a player has to gather his emotions aside, to be triumphant.
That’s what AB de Villiers did in Adelaide, when he decided to sideline his personal glory, by choosing out the realistic path. On the fifth day of the Test, he was facing actually two oppositions, one was the home team Australia and the other one was his exclusive nature of ferocity. The latter was the more difficult opponent but he stood out against his inner self. Didn’t he want to play with his renowned aggressive approach? Didn’t he have eagerness and desire to acquire glamour like the other days? He built a wall in front of own ego, threw his needless sentiments aside and pulled off a sensational draw for South Africa. AB scored 33 off 220 balls demonstrating that sane marvels always preferred awareness over emotions.
In the case of Afridi, it was different. It appeared as if his actions were controlled by the people enchanting for him in the crowd. He had all traits in his cricketing textbook required to excel at the game but failed to win a war against his inner self and ego.
I assume that’s the reason, Afridi was deprived of the peak, the pundits of the sport aimed for him, following his sizzling display at Nairobi.
In my opinion, Shahid Afridi would be the greatest underachiever to grace the field without any argument. If I were aligned a task of defining his 20 years career in about ten to eleven words, then I shouldn’t be hesitant to state that, “Afridi was hero and villain of the same movie.”