Pakistan icon Shahid Afridi wins hearts in India by rising above politics

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Afridi has many fans in India and across the world.

Pakistan star Shahid Afridi is adored by fans not only in his country but across the globe and especially in India. His fearless style of cricket has made him a superstar who continues to pull in crowds wherever he goes and whichever format or level of cricket he plays.

During the recently held Ice Cricket Challenge in St Moritz in the Swiss Alps, Afridi showed why he is one of the most beloved cricketers to emerge from the subcontinent.

After the Afridi-led Royals team beat Virender Sehwag’s Badrutt Palace Diamonds side by six wickets, the star all-rounder posed for pictures with a handful of fans who had gathered at the frozen lake that was converted into a cricket pitch.

One India fan asked for a picture to be clicked with Afridi, careful to keep the Indian flag tucked away to avoid any potential unease. However, Afridi asked the fan to unfurl the flag before posing for the picture.

That gesture has won the hearts of scores of fans on both sides of the border.

“I believe as cricketers we can set examples of how relationship between individuals can be a template for relationship between countries,” Afridi was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

“I think after Pakistan, the two countries where I have received most love and respect are India and Australia,” he added.

The other big players who featured in the unique cricket event were Shoaib Akhtar, Graeme Smith, Andrew Symonds, Lasith Malinga and Mahela Jayawardene.

Last year, Afridi was gifted an Indian jersey signed by a number of star players including Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh on his retirement from international cricket.

That jersey was later sold at an auction for the star’s charitable institution – the Shahid Afridi Foundation.

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Pakistan batsman Shan Masood now has the best average in 50-over history

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Shan Masood averages 137 in one-dayers this season.

Pakistan batsman Shan Masood has capped an incredible year for batsmen in his country’s domestic One Day Cup by attaining the highest average ever recorded in 50-over history.

This year has seen some incredible numbers come out of Pakistan’s One Day Cup. Three days after Islamabad batsman Abid Ali recorded the highest score in Pakistan’s 50-over history during his unbeaten knock of 209 against Peshawar, Test batsman Shan Masood hit an unbeaten 182 while batting for Islamabad against Rawalpindi.

That innings helped his team reach 380-2 but it was a far from a comfortable win as Rawalpindi made 367-9 from their allotted quota of overs in the semi-final clash.

Masood’s effort that helped Islamabad qualify for the final was special for another reason. The left-handed batsman now averages 58.2 in 50-over cricket – the highest in List A games in history, overtaking the great Michael Bevan’s tally of 15,103 runs from 427 matches at an average of 57.86.

Masood has admittedly played fewer matches – 71 – but his run this season has been stupendous nonetheless.

The left-handed opening batsman has also become only the second batsman in history to score more than 1,000 runs in a 50-over season at an average of more than 100. Masood’s returns this season are 1,237 runs at an average of 137.44, with Bevan the only other batsman to achieve similar numbers – 1,201 runs at an average of 109.18 in 2000.

What had boosted Masood’s average this season is three unbeaten centuries – 182, 128 and 100 – in his last 10 matches.

While Masood’s returns are impressive, it must be noted that this season of 50-over cricket in Pakistan has been particularly productive for batsmen. Earlier last month, wicketkeeper batsman Kamran Akmal became only the third Pakistan batsman to hit a double century in List A matches.

Many in Pakistan believe the reason for such prolific run-scoring is vastly different conditions compared to first-class matches.

In the Quaid-e-Azam first-class tournament, green top wickets and Duke balls meant fast bowlers ruled the roost as the average first innings score was 235 – the lowest in the world – and only one batsman scored more than 500 runs at an average of above 50.

But the scenario has changed in one-day cricket with Kookaburra balls and flatter wickets resulting in 13 scores in excess of 300.

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Shoaib Akhtar says Lahore Qalandars pacer Salman Irshad can break 100 miles per hour barrier

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Irshad bowling for Hawkesbury Club in Australia.

Pakistan has a proud tradition of producing world-class fast bowlers and another name looks set to join that list.

Former Pakistan quick Shoaib Akhtar has earmarked PSL team Lahore Qalandars’ Salman Irshad as the bowler who can breach the 100 miles per hour mark.

Akhtar is one of only four bowlers – apart from Aussie quicks Jeff Thomson, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait – who have bowled at 100mph (161kph) at international level. The retired pacer said he will monitor Irshad’s progress himself after Akhtar was named mentor for the Qalandars in the third edition of the PSL.

“He is bowling at 92 miles an hour now. He can go up to 97. And if he puts his heart in, can break the 100 miles per hour barrier. I want to train Salman Irshad myself,” Akhtar said during an interview on Pakistan’s GEO News.

Irshad was spotted during a talent hunt conducted by the Qalandars last year in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Former Pakistan fast bowler and Qalandars director cricket operations Aaqib Javed was immediately impressed by what he saw and said Irshad had the potential to represent Pakistan at the highest level.

“I have set a target for him to increase his speed to 150kph. The angle he creates will help him bowl well in the death overs,” Javed was quoted as saying by Pakpassion.net.

With such high praise coming from two of the finest fast bowlers produced by Pakistan, all eyes will surely be on him when the PSL starts in the UAE on February 22.

Irshad was part of Lahore Qalandars’ Rising Stars squad that traveled to Australia for a quadrangular tournament. There he impressed the locals and was signed up by Hawkesbury CC for the rest of the season. Irshad picked up 22 wickets at an average of 12.95 in his first five second division games for Hawkesbury.

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