#360view: There was never a dull moment with divisive Afridi

Barnaby Read 20:25 20/02/2017
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  • Afridi

    Enigmatic Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi finally called it a day on the international scene late on Sunday night, bringing to an end one of Pakistan cricket’s most renowned careers.

    It was inevitable and Afridi had been waiting for a send-off he believed befitted his career in the green and gold of his country.

    He reportedly demanded a farewell series, then a match, to say goodbye to his fans but instead found a fitting way to bid adieu with a superb innings of 54 from 28 balls in the PSL at Sharjah.

    His knock was brutal, giving his side hope seemingly from nowhere before falling agonisingly short of leading his team to victory.

    A case of so near, yet so far. An innings capturing the imagination of his adoring public but ending in defeat.

    It was the most Afridi of things. A microcosm of his career.

    Since blisteringly announcing himself to the world stage as a 16-year-old with a 37-ball 100 against Sri Lanka in his second ODI way back in 1996, Afridi has long been the shining light of Pakistan cricket.

    That light certainly faded over the past few years and flickered for the majority of his career but Afridi’s ability to magically muster awe-inspiring performances out of the hat resonated with the Pakistan public.

    For Pathans, he is an idol incomparable but for many outside of Pakistan cricket – and many within it – Afridi’s international career was more frustrating than compelling viewing.

    He so often struggled to find consistency and riled opposition, team-mates and coaches alike in a career filled with clashes.

    In T20Is, Afridi did find individual success and he leaves the game as the format’s most capped player and leading wicket-taker with 97 scalps in 98 matches.

    His leg-spin is beguiling, the drift, speed, turn and variety on offer worthy of a dissertation all of its own.

    But, with the bat, it is only in Test cricket – the format he enjoyed the least and scandalously only played 27 times – that his batting average betters that of his bowling.

    For a premier all-rounder so naturally adept in all of the sport’s arts that makes infuriating reading, but Afridi’s star power tends to transcend numbers.

    Afridi in T20Is

    • Matches: 98
    • Runs: 1,405
    • Wickets: 97
    • BBI: 4-11; HS: 54*

    He is the kind of man that makes knees weak as soon as he walks into a room, the aura of a rockstar complimenting the customary aviators.

    And therein lies the Afridi conundrum, that of a man willed by perception, be it out of his control or orchestrated by it.

    Some will never forget the tempestuous captaincy, biting of balls and pirouettes on the pitch.

    For others, the image of a 16-year-old sending the ball to all parts and the feisty competitor carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders will win out.

    You know which one Afridi would like you to remember.

    However you choose to remember Afridi’s career, one thing we can all agree on is that there was never a dull moment.