SHAHID AFRIDI ON "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE" IN ICC WORLD TWENTY20 CUP

ANISUDDIN KHAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Mar
29 - Apr 4, 2010

When Shahid Afridi along with Pakistan's cricket team heads to the West Indies next month to defend the title in the ICC World Twenty20 Cup, he will be flying into a zone which has become Pakistan cricket's "Bermuda Triangle".

Except for one fond memory of Hanif Muhammad playing test crickets highest innings way back in mid-fifties, visiting the West Indies has been most traumatic experience for Pakistani cricketers over the years.

It was there that Pakistan leg spinner Abdul Qadir was involved in a bust up with a spectator while fielding on the boundary line which almost landed him in police custody many years ago. It was during the West Indies tour that Pakistan's Wasim Akram and Waqar Younus were allegedly apprehended after they were found in possession of marijuana with a buxom tourist on the beach. These charges were later dropped and Pakistan's reputation eluded the damage.

It was there during the World Cup when Pakistan's cricket coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room. Some of the Pakistani cricketers were interviewed by Jamaican police after the mysterious death.

Pakistan cricketers still has not come out of the trauma of that incident and when they land in the West Indies the ghost of the past would stalk them. The cricketers would have had double pressure to cope up with.

Afridi and his men would be under tremendous pressure to perform and give good news to the nation waiting half the globe away hoping the cricketers to retain the trophy.

If Pakistan fails to do well and make its exit early from the twelve team competition forces of rumours would be unleashed on Pakistani team and there would be all sorts of allegations on individual players.

As the T20 format is fastest format of cricket where one run and one dot ball could made world of a difference in the outcome, allegations of match fixing or selling the match would start flying. So when Pakistan leaves next month for the West Indies they would be flying in the "Devils Triangle" where only victory would save them, otherwise the team and the skipper would be doomed to face accusations that would land some of the players into deep trouble.

No doubt Shahid Afridi is a courageous cricketer who loves to take up challenges by the horn but lately he was involved in ball biting incident which landed him in trouble. He was suspended by the ICC for two ODI's and the PCB fined him Rs3 million and placed him under watch for six months.

Afridi's international career has some black spots. In 2005, he was banned for a Test match and two one-day internationals for deliberately damaging the pitch in the second match of the three-Test series against England. TV cameras pictured him scraping his boots on the pitch scuffing the surface when play was held up.

Afridi later pleaded guilty to breach of the ICC code of conduct relating to the spirit of the game. Inquiries were made and Afridi's antics came into view. He was investigated and banned after the day's play, along with receiving a huge amount of criticism from the cricketing world for bringing the game into disrepute.

In the second incident Afridi was charged in 2007 of bringing the game into disrepute when on a tour of South Africa , he was seen on camera thrusting his bat at a spectator who swore at him on his way up the steps after being dismissed. Replays seemed to show that the action was not meant to cause injury, though the spectator had to move out of the way to avoid contact. Afridi was found guilty and given a four-game ODI suspension, the minimum possible ban for such an offense.

In January of this year Afridi was caught on camera biting vigorously into the ball towards the end of One Day International series in Australia, at the WACA Ground. He was immediately called by the match referee after the match was over. In his defence, he told a Pakistani TV channel that he was trying to "Smell the ball". Afridi pleaded guilty to ball tampering and he was banned from two Twenty20 internationals. This incident was widely reported in media as the Bitegate incident.

After betting the reins of captaincy Afridi had promised to bring the title back home but it would be more difficult to do practically.

Afridi whose full name is Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi was born on March 1, 1980 in Khyber Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

He shot into instant fame when flown from Canada as replacement hammered the fastest hundred in ODI against Sri Lanka in Nairobi in the month of October 1996. Exactly two years later he made his debut in test against Australia at his adopted home Karachi.

He is known for his aggressive batting style, and currently holds the highest career strike rate in the history of international cricket. In a recent survey, Afridi was named as the most popular cricketer in Pakistan. He also holds the record for the fastest one day century which he made in his debut innings, as well as scoring 32 runs in a single over, the second highest scoring over ever in an ODI.

BATTING

He is an aggressive right hand batsman which earned him the name "Boom Boom Afridi" for his fastest One Day International century just in 37balls.

As of 21 February 2010, he has an ODI strike rate of 111.65 runs per 100 balls, the highest in the game's history. This attitude has been transferred to Test cricket as well, with Afridi scoring at a relatively high strike rate of 86.13 in Tests.

His aggressive style increases his risk of getting out and he is one of the most inconsistent batsmen in cricket. This is reflected by the fact that he is the only player to score more than 5000 ODI runs at an average under 25.

He is a useful leg spinner who bowls the ball at medium pace baffling the batsmen. His stock ball is the leg break, but his armory also includes the conventional off break and a 'quicker one' which he can deliver at nearly 80 mph in the style of a medium-pacer. He bowls at a high speed for a spinner, resulting in lesser turn, and relying more on variations in speed. He occasionally sends down a bouncer to a batsman, which is very rare for a spin bowler.

Like a true Pushtun, Afridi is impulsive. In 2006 Afridi announced a temporary retirement from Test cricket until after the 2007 World Cup so that he could concentrate on ODIs.

However, he reversed his decision. Shahid Afridi has received the reins of the team at a time when his and his team's performance would be under severe scrutiny. Team's behaviour and performance would be judged in the background of the recent Australian tour where Pakistan team was totally whitewashed by the Aussies.

He is taking with him two brothers Kamran Akmal and Umer Akmal who have been heavily fined for their anti team behaviour on the Australian tour.

He could control all the stallions in the team through example. He had to do well in batting and particularly fielding which will turn the luck in favour of the winning team.

His delayed appointment has already created a furore. However Shahid Khan Afridi need not to be offended as being named as a captain of the Pakistan team after the announcement of the team to play ICC World Twenty20 .

He is not the first international captain, though for different reasons, he has been chosen after the selection of the team by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

It has been a regular practice in Australia, where the captain of the team is always selected after the team is chosen.

Long-standing Australian tradition has been to pick the best 11 cricket players to represent Australia, and then to appoint the captain from the ranks of that 11.

Afridi is known for his aggressive batting style, and currently holds the highest career strike rate in the history of international cricket. In a recent survey, Afridi was named as the most popular cricketer in Pakistan.

The PCB has named following fifteen players for ICC World Twenty 20: Mohammad Hafeez, Salman Butt, Khalid Latif, Umer Akmal, Fawad Alam, Misbahul Haq, Shahid Afridi (captain), Abdul Razzaq, YasirArafat, Kamran Akmal, Hammad Azam, Saeed Ajmal, Umer Gul, Mohammad Aamir, Mohammad Asif Pakistan is placed in Group A with Bangladesh and Australia.

Other Groups are: Group B - Sri Lanka (B1), New Zealand (B2) and Zimbabwe Group C - South Africa (C1), India (C2) and Qualifier 1 Group D - West Indies (D1), England (D2) and Qualifier 2.