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Posts Tagged ‘Shahid Afridi’

It’s unlikely that Shahid Afridi has ever listened to Fort Minor’s hip-hop hit, Remember the Name. But if someone was to translate it for him, there’s every chance that the lyrics would resonate with a proud Pathan who has lived most of his life in Karachi.

He feels so unlike everybody else, alone

In spite of the fact that some people still think that they know him

But **** ‘em, he knows the code

It’s not about the salary

It’s all about reality and making some noise


The noise associated with Afridi’s batting ever since he exploded on to the scene 13 years ago has been Boom Boom. Virender Sehwag destroys attacks with far greater consistency, and Albie Morkel can hit the ball further, but when it comes to reducing batsmanship to its most primal form, no one does it quite like Afridi. In doing so, he often brings out the Neanderthal in the fans too.

I recall a game at Kanpur in April 2005. Pakistan had come from two down to square the series, and with President Musharraf and Manmohan Singh to be part of the audience for the final game in Delhi, the match at Green Park had real significance. It was hardly a batting paradise either. The sluggish pitch and accurate bowling had stymied India’s top order, but with Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif finding form, Pakistan needed to score at exactly five an over to win. (more…)

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How Shahid Afridi got his groove back.

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It’s hard to think of a sporting event with more of a fairytale ending. Perhaps South Africa’s rugby World Cup final victory in 1995, with Nelson Mandela wearing Francois Pienaar’s shirt in the stands, would come close. But South Africa were a nation at the cusp of a new beginning, a country trying to say goodbye to a deeply divisive and forgettable past. Pakistanis are currently engaged in a battle for existence, against the forces of extremism that have already dragged parts of central Asia back to the Middle Ages. Sporting victories don’t alter such harsh realities, but they can certainly do wonders for morale. When India won a Test match against England at Chennai less than three weeks after the terror attacks in Mumbai, it was so much more than just a win. For Pakistan fans who danced to Dil Dil Pakistan and We Are The Champions at the end, this will never be just another day out at the cricket. It will be THE day.
Younis Khan, who announced his retirement from international Twenty20 games after this triumph, spoke jokingly of how he was the Second Khan (after Imran) and seriously of how determined he had been to be remembered for a World Cup victory. There were certainly similarities too. Pakistan were a push and a shove from the exit when they took on Australia at Perth on March 11, 1992, and 17 years on, they were left in a situation where they had no option but to win convincingly against the Netherlands. Having been thrashed by South Africa and India in warm-up games and then outclassed by England in their opening group game, few expected much from this side.
But when needed, they made the big calls. Out went Salman Butt and Ahmed Shehzad, and up came Kamran Akmal to open the batting. When Yasir Arafat got injured, they called up Abdul Razzaq, one of the veterans of Pakistan’s run to the 50-over World Cup final in 1999. Not only did Razzaq add experience and nous to the bowling, but he was yet another sounding board for Younis in conditions that he knew intimately because of his county experience. The awareness came to the fore in the final as early wickets ensured that Sri Lanka couldn’t aspire to anything more than a par score.
But the biggest change was in Shahid Afridi. An accident waiting to happen with the bat in the early stages of the competition, he batted with a maturity that astonished even his captain in the two games that mattered. Until Isuru Udana was clubbed over midwicket late on, it would have been hard to convince yourself that it was Afridi batting. Or that it was Pakistan. So used to living on their wits and winning the hard way, they won this final with as clinical a performance as you could hope to see.
You had to feel for Sri Lanka. In tremendous form for a fortnight and with the player of the tournament in Tillakaratne Dilshan, they came up short yet again in a major final. Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews batted beautifully at the end to take them to a half-decent score, but failure to take wickets in the Power Play meant that the ground never shook beneath Pakistani feet. They also played Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan better than most teams have, and treated Udana with contempt, taking 44 from his four overs. It was the sort of display you associate with Australia.
And so the team who won’t be playing much cricket at home this decade, and whose players were barred from IPL riches, has proved just why world cricket can’t afford to isolate them. In the worst of times, they produced a performance redolent of the best. The thousands of fans who never gave up on their team, who turned up with faces painted and hearts thumping, deserved nothing less. This was their MCG, an evening to etch in the memory. The second Khan and his boys may just have paved the way for Pakistan cricket’s second coming.

It’s hard to think of a sporting event with more of a fairytale ending. Perhaps South Africa’s rugby World Cup final victory in 1995, with Nelson Mandela wearing Francois Pienaar’s shirt in the stands, would come close. But South Africa were a nation at the cusp of a new beginning, a country trying to say goodbye to a deeply divisive and forgettable past. Pakistanis are currently engaged in a battle for existence, against the forces of extremism that have already dragged parts of central Asia back to the Middle Ages.

Sporting victories don’t alter such harsh realities, but they can certainly do wonders for morale. When India won a Test match against England at Chennai less than three weeks after the terror attacks in Mumbai, it was so much more than just a win. For Pakistan fans who danced to Dil Dil Pakistan and We Are The Champions at the end, this will never be just another day out at the cricket. It will be THE day. (more…)

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I had goosebumps walking back from Younis Khan’s press conference. There was bedlam in the streets outside Trent Bridge – car horns blaring, klaxons, guys leaning out of car windows waving flags, traffic at a standstill. Pakistan are the outcasts of international cricket, for reasons way beyond the players’ and fans’ control, and you couldn’t help but be chuffed for them. Soon after the match, I’d had a good laugh as I spotted a placard that read: “Cost of match ticket: £40, Cost of replica shirt: £20, India going home: Priceless.” After two years of putting up with Indian gloating, the lead-toed boot is on the other foot, and the chants of “Pakistan zindabad” will probably still break Nottingham’s night-time silence for a few hours yet.
In the city associated with Robin Hood, Pakistan came out and played like merry men, with an intensity that had been absent from their performances until they hammered New Zealand. No one illustrated that desire better than Shahid Afridi, whose uselessness with the bat in recent times has been in stark contrast to his brilliance with the bat. But sent in at No.3 and given license to express himself, he caught South Africa cold. It would be simplistic to say that his assault on Johan Botha changed the game, but it did ensure that the two-pronged spin attack that had been so lethal against India wouldn’t be repeated here.
South Africa battled back superbly with the ball, with Wayne Parnell in particular showing the composure of a wizened veteran after being walloped for 14 in his first over. Once Pakistan were kept below 150, South Africa were favourites, but there’s something about them in the really big games that makes you wonder if they ever will break that big-cup hoodoo. Graeme Smith was flat and with Jacques Kallis so orthodox in his approach, they really needed someone to be inventive against the spinners. Perhaps they missed a trick by not promoting Mark Boucher.
Kallis and JP Duminy added 61, but by the time Kallis departed, after being riled by what Afridi called a “flying kiss”, the asking-rate needed Gary Sobers rather than Albie Morkel. And after Afridi had starred with a super spell of 2 for 16, Umar Gul was impeccable at the death, sending down yorkers almost at will. Faced with a side that raised their game immeasurably for the big occasion, South Africa had no answers. At least it wasn’t as embarrassing as the 50-over World Cup semi-final two years ago, when Glenn McGrath and friends ended the contest before most punters could grab a beer.
Afterwards, Younis was asked why Pakistan couldn’t be consistent. “Look at the situation in our country,” he said. “It’s not at all stable. Why do you expect cricketers to be any different?” It was perhaps said in jest, but he has a valid point. Like a coin, you just can’t predict which side will turn up.

I had goosebumps walking back from Younis Khan’s press conference. There was bedlam in the streets outside Trent Bridge – car horns blaring, klaxons, guys leaning out of car windows waving flags, traffic at a standstill. Pakistan are the outcasts of international cricket, for reasons way beyond the players’ and fans’ control, and you couldn’t help but be chuffed for them. Soon after the match, I’d had a good laugh as I spotted a placard that read: “Cost of match ticket: £40, Cost of replica shirt: £20, India going home: Priceless.” After two years of putting up with Indian gloating, the lead-toed boot is on the other foot, and the chants of “Pakistan zindabad” will probably still break Nottingham’s night-time silence for a few hours yet.

In the city associated with Robin Hood, Pakistan came out and played like merry men, with an intensity that had been absent from their performances until they hammered New Zealand. No one illustrated that desire better than Shahid Afridi, whose uselessness with the bat in recent times has been in stark contrast to his brilliance with the ball. But sent in at No.3 and given license to express himself, he caught South Africa cold. It would be simplistic to say that his assault on Johan Botha changed the game, but it did ensure that the two-pronged spin attack that had been so lethal against India wouldn’t be repeated here. (more…)

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The Indians fans that had come early to Lord’s whooped it up in the early part of the afternoon, as Pakistan stumbled badly in pursuit of a modest Sri Lankan total. But any Pakistani supporters that stayed back for the later game soon got their chance for payback as West Indies produced a high-class performance to push India toward the abyss. Lendl Simmons took a mind-boggling catch to dismiss Gautam Gambhir and then batted beautifully for 44, but it was Dwayne Bravo that took the game away, following up 4 for 38 with a dazzling 36-ball 66.

At one stage, the required rate was climbing up to 10, but Bravo cut loose with some gorgeous orthodox strokes, targetting the straight boundary and cover with equal fluency. India lost it in two overs, with Ishant Sharma giving up 16 and Harbhajan 15 in the 17th and 18th overs of the innings. India had done well to take the game that far, but ultimately they paid the price for the poorest of starts. Having slumped to 29 for 3, they were then marooned in treacle for eight overs as the bowlers frustrated Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Dhoni’s 11 spanned 23 balls, and it was left to Yuvraj to inject some urgency with some stunning shots in the final overs.

Yusuf Pathan chipped in as well, but you always sensed that they were 10 or 15 short. (more…)

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He may be a dud with the bat these days, but Pakistan can thank Shahid Afridi’s powers with the ball for their safe progress into the Super Eights. With Saeed Ajmal offering superb support, Pakistan were far too strong for the Netherlands who discovered that lightning doesn’t strike twice, not at an event of this magnitude. So, despite the pathetic showing against England, Pakistan are into the business end of the competition, and two wins against Ireland, New Zealand and Sri Lanka should be enough to seal a semi-final place. A lot depends on the remaining matches and which teams take bonus points into that phase. Pakistan won’t, but having no margin for error they might play their best cricket as they did today.

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There was a time, not so long ago, when Pakistan cricket embodied skill, glamour and a fierce mongrel spirit. Those were the days when its scripts were written by the brothers Grimm or Yabo Yablonsky of Escape to victory fame. Now, the stories are a lot more bleak, and in some cases, like at The Oval today, not even worth watching. To dignify the 48-run capitulation against England as a “performance” would be to trivialise the word and to insult generations of great cricketers who have worn the Pakistani colours with such pride. This was a shambles, and barring an extraordinary meltdown from the courageous Dutch, Pakistan, who pushed India all the way in the inaugural World Twenty20, won’t even make the Super Eight.
They don’t deserve to either. Everything about Pakistan cricket stinks of decay and the team’s performances are a mere reflection of that. Let’s start with the administrators. When not humiliating senior players by making public private medical reports, they stop the players from competing in the domestic Twenty20 competition. Remember that Pakistan were the only major cricketing nation whose players had nothing to do with the second season of the IPL. But while the key India, Sri Lankan and South African players warmed up for this competition with at least 12 games each, the Pakistanis were asked to skip their own competition. Preparation, eh? Who needs that?
And with all due respect to Intikhab Alam, a great player from an era long gone, and Younis Khan, a thoroughly nice bloke, the tactics made a skunk’s scent look pleasant. Yasir Arafat is a decent cricketer, a good option as a first or second-change bowler given his experience of English conditions. Nothing more. The very idea of him taking the new ball for a country that has produced some of the world’s greatest fast bowlers is nothing short of preposterous. Mohammad Amir will have better days than he did today, but at least he looks like a new-ball bowler. Arafat never will be one.
Any team can get whacked around a little during the Power Play, but the better ones come back by creating pressure in the field, by harrying batsmen looking for singles in the circles, taking catches and throwing down the stumps. Pakistan’s fielding, by contrast, is a throwback to the days when princes stood around sleep-addled from too much lunch, and then politely walked to the boundary rope to pick up a ball that had just been hit past them. They catch like the ball might detonate at any minute and the less said about attempts to stop it, the better. You see better fielding sides in grade cricket in Australia, and in the northern leagues in England. You can make all the excuses you want about the difficulty in picking the ball out of the background at The Oval, but you can rest assured that the team that wins the title on June 21st won’t be treating the cricket ball like a foreign object.
That brings us to an even sadder tale, of the batsman that was once Shahid Afridi. In his former guise, he failed often, but on the occasions when he came off, he could terrify bowlers with the raw power of his hitting. I’ll never forget a 45-ball century at Kanpur in 2005, when even the great Anil Kumble was dismissed from his presence with some awe-inspiring strokes.
That was a long time ago. These days, Afridi and the middle of the bat are strangers. He walks out and starts swinging with all the menace of a drunk trying to swat a fly. There’s just one stroke, the full-kitchen-sink, and unfortunately he never connects with it. Today, he managed five runs while wasting 12 balls, never once looking like he could clear the rope. That would have been fine if he was batting at No.7 or 8. But instead, he had come in at No.6, ahead of Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s best T20 batsman by a mile, and Yasir, who struck the ball beautifully in the warm-up game against India. By the time Misbah eventually made it to the middle, Pakistan needed three runs a ball. Withholding the big guns really makes no sense if you have no artillery in the first place.
Every team will lose games, but it was the spinelessness of this surrender that will irk fans the most. Had they collapsed in a heap for 120 while going for glory, few would have complained. But to dawdle along to 137 in the full quota of overs was just wretched, and a slap in the face for all those passionate fans who had never stopped cheering for their team.
Think back to the greatest moments in Pakistan’s limited-overs history. The victory over Australia at the WACA in 1992 that was to be the spur for the greatest of all World Cup resurrections. Moin Khan’s stunning assault on Glenn McGrath at Headingley in 1999. The common thread was the team’s indomitable spirit, a stubborn refusal to lie down and accept their fate. That was what made the team such icons even to non-Pakistani supporters. Today, they disgraced that proud tradition. Instead of making them swear on the Holy Qu’ran, Intikhab should ask them all to look at themselves in the mirror, and see just how many hang their heads in shame.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Pakistan cricket embodied skill, glamour and a fierce mongrel spirit. Those were the days when its scripts were written by the Brothers Grimm or Yabo Yablonsky of Escape to Victory fame. Now, the stories are a lot more bleak, and in some cases, like at The Oval today, not even worth watching. To dignify the 48-run capitulation against England as a “performance” would be to trivialise the word and to insult generations of great cricketers who have worn the Pakistani colours with such pride. This was a shambles, and barring an extraordinary meltdown from the courageous Dutch, Pakistan, who pushed India all the way in the inaugural World Twenty20, won’t even make the Super Eight.

They don’t deserve to either. Everything about Pakistan cricket stinks of decay and the team’s performances are a mere reflection of that. Let’s start with the administrators. When not humiliating senior players by making public private medical reports, they stop the players from competing in the domestic Twenty20 competition. Remember that Pakistan were the only major cricketing nation whose players had nothing to do with the second season of the IPL. But while the key Indian, Sri Lankan and South African players warmed up for this event with at least 12 games each, the Pakistanis were asked to skip their own competition. Preparation, eh? Who needs that? (more…)

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