Who’s afraid of Afridi? | Pakistan Today

Who’s afraid of Afridi?

Once upon a time he gave us Cup-brimming joy (T20 in the old Blighty) but it is the short wave that leaves us with a deep void.

Few however, can deny it is his devil-may-care mien that enthralls us all from America to Antarctica (okay, the second one is a slight exaggeration but isnt that the farthest he wants to hit every ball?).

Sahibzada Shahid Khan Afridi, in my considered opinion, is the very personification of Pakistan today impulsive, restless, ambitious and uninhibited. In short, it is an existence that gives an unmistakable impression of someone, who not only lives on the edge but apparently, loves doing it.

Even chewing the ball as he was caught doing last year is the kind of trick that is aimed at reaching the goalpost somehow. It induced a ban and the kind of shaming shemozzle that hurt him so bad he considered walking out. But before long, he was back trying to play by what has become a favourite placard with his moniker: Afridi, be very Afridi.

Judging from his game, it is doubtful if he has ever had a passing acquaintance with Mozart. He is more like crickets equivalent of thrash metal. Yet, where Afridi bludgeons with the willow, he is a heady artist with the ball.

Aggression oozes out of his every filament and chances are he wouldnt be caught dead playing percentages in favour of a kamikaze with all its inherent potential of burying the adventurer.

Why would you not love such a man? Is it any wonder that he is the favourite cricketer of even cricketers and their families? Ask Shane Warne or even his son as the great leggie revealed last year such adulation coming from a land known for its method, not madness.

This piece however, is not meant to be a rhapsody in the name of Pakistans most exciting cricketer ever. Rather, it is more about the exasperation he is causing his compatriots in sticking to his guns like a northwest slinger.

There is no doubt Pakistans rapid fire rounds so far are more than half owed to the singularly spectacular show of her skipper. But his team selection and strategy leaves quite a bit to be desired.

For starters, someone needs to unlock the secret of why Afridi is immune to taking eminently sensible advice from someone like Imran Khan never mind regular folks like us with a fair understanding of the game.

Pakistans only World Cup winning captain, like the other former greats and fans, has been advocating the inclusion of an extra wicket-taking bowler rather than sexing up the batting line-up, which already boasts enough strength.

But for some strange reason akin to the superstitious streak of a Bollywood babe intent on drawing good luck charm he continues to stick to the same 7+1+3 formula in order of batsmen, keeper and specialist bowlers regardless of the weather and pitch conditions.

For instance, given the heavy atmosphere and sluggish outfield conditions ideal for Pakistans set of swing bowlers against a struggling Canadian side it was astonishing not to take the field after winning the toss.

For arguments sake, even if such a decision was not dictated by weather and pitch conditions, it would have made perfect sense for Pakistan to experiment chasing a target in order to be match ready for such an eventuality in the more significant forthcoming encounters. Clearly, it was an opportunity squandered considering Pakistan will have to play their next match on the Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium in Colombo against top dogs Australia.

Afridi has played long enough to know the kind of mix required for most subcontinent tracks. In short, theres no short-cut to having four specialist bowlers and an all-rounder/part-timer to fill in the slot of the fifth bowler. If six solid batsmen arent good enough to deliver, theres little chance a seventh will make for a seventh heaven but it is sure to eat into the bowling requirements.

Any team opening the attack with Abdul Razzaq is only shooting itself in the foot. With Razzaqs gentle pace and the field up in the mandatory first ten overs, Afridi is tempting fate. He may have averted disaster on account of batting first and twice piling up big scores but the only time he was tested against a top-ranking team, Sri Lanka, he went for plenty. It is a risk Pakistan can ill-afford with the forthcoming big matches, giving way to the knockout stage.

Afridi also needs to put his thinking cap on when making referrals for review. He can be impulsive and prone to making a call in reflex action.

All things considered, with Afridi it is more like a case of known unknowns to borrow Donald (Rumsfeld)s diction. Millions of Pakistanis are hoping that translates into bringing home the Cup.

The writer is a newspaper editor and can be reached at [email protected]