The curious case of Shahid Afridi

Umid Kumar Dey
Published Date: 05 Dec 2017 | Update : 11 Dec 2017

Enigma. If you Google this word, you will find its meaning as “a person or thing that is mysterious or difficult to understand.” Indeed, that is what Shahid Afridi is: an enigma, someone so inscrutable that even the tapestry of God seems fathomable when compared to it.

At times, he makes a lot of sense. Speaking the best possible combination of words and doing the best possible combination of things. At times, he is a like a deity of thunder wielding the bat as his bolt – hitting sixes and fours as though he was punishing the mere mortals with his fury.

And at other times, he is like a man with a blindfold over his eyes and a baseball bat in his hands, with only one goal: smack the ball out of the park – and then fail miserably to become a comic character for the rest of the cricketing fraternity.

Indeed, the number of times Shahid Afridi has retired and then made a comeback is far more than the number of albums Artcell have released – such is the enigmatic nature of the man from Pakistan.

However, one thing that can’t be denied is his ability to entertain people. When he walks out on the pitch, the fans cheer vehemently without cessation. It is as though time has been shifted back to BC and the stadium has been converted into the Coliseum as Afridi – the crowds’ favourite gladiator – walked out on the pitch at full speed and with the intent to destroy his enemies.

The thrill that he exudes to the people watching him play is a sight to behold in itself. Nah, Afridi is not an elegant player that resemblance a swan bathing by the lake with the grace of his bat, neither is he world class by any means – but he is an electric character that can get the audience on their feet.

I remember him single-handedly carrying Pakistan from the jaws of defeat to the arms of victory against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup in 2014. I remember him spanking the Indian bowlers all over the park to make 141 runs and desecrate their bowling in the process.

This was a man that had the ability to become one of the best players in the history of the game, but his temperament never allowed him to be.

Adaptation, they say, is one of the abilities that plays a huge factor between success and failure. Indeed, if someone can adapt to the need of time, there is no stopping that person. Afridi, however, failed to do so.

The Pakistani batsmen saw cricket in a different light to his peers. He saw it as a means to entertain the people and himself rather than a bridge to take him to the land of glory. But what can we say? Isn’t entertaining everyone like bathing in glory, too?

Maybe it is. Maybe, just maybe, that is the reason why Afridi never changed. He only knew one thing: to smash the ball as hard as he could – as if he had a personal vendetta against it – and that’s what he did all his life.

When MS Dhoni burst into the scene, his batting style was akin to Afridi’s. The man from Ranchi could only speak in the language of sixes and fours and didn’t really seem to believe in the art of anchoring an innings.

However, he changed when he was made the captain of India. No longer did he wield the bat like a maniac and try decapitate the ball every time his bat touched it.

But then there was Afridi.

When Afridi was made the captain of the Pakistan team, he didn’t really care about changing his style. He took the “be yourself” aspect of life way too seriously and that, perhaps, cost him the player that he could have been.

But then again, he became just the player that he wanted to be: an entertainer out there to bring the people at the edge of their seats. Not too bad, eh?

The 37-year-old has now retired from the international circuit and plays exclusively for T20 teams in big-money leagues, so it can be claimed that he is living on borrowed time. Cherish him while you can; he will disappoint you on 9 out of 10 days, but that one day, he will become the king of the world.

And we should all just bow down to him then. 

Picture Courtesy : Getty Images

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