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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Sahibzada Mohammed Shahid Afridi Khan
  • Born 1 March 1980 Khyber Agency, Pakistan
  • Educated
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 30 April 2006 v Gloucestershire at Bristol.
  • Cap Number 653
  • Style Right hand batsman, right arm leg break and googly bowler
  • Teams Asia XI, Deccan Chargers, Fly Emirates XI, Griqualand West, Habib Bank, Hampshire, ICC World XI, Karachi, Leicestershire

Shahid Afridi is a superb all round cricketer whose career has, however, been blighted by controversy, inconsistency and unpredictability. At his best he is a world beating leg spinner with many variations in his armoury. As well as a conventional leg break, he has an off spinner, two googlies and a lethal, but increasingly rarely used faster delivery. Batting, he can never resist the challenge. His prime purpose is to hit a cricket ball as hard and as far as possible. This has produced some memorable innings in all forms of the game but has also led to needless sacrifice of his wicket. He is at his most spectacular when launching into his lofted straight and on drives.

I well remember a Cheltenham and Gloucester Quarter Final at New Road 10 years ago when, opening the batting for Leicestershire against hosts Worcestershire, he raced to 67 in what seemed like no time at all. Four huge sixes crashed against the BBC commentary position, causing Henry Blofeld, already perhaps disorientated by the fact that no buses are visible from the ground and that it is not on the flight path of any civil airline, to consider abandoning his position. However, as those who saw Afridi batting - if such a description can be used - for Pakistan against Australia in the Test at Lord's in 2010 will be all too well aware, he can also be little more than a reckless slogger, swinging the bat in a manner which shows no consideration of the state of the match. Nor has controversy ever been far from him. Pitch scuffing, ball biting, premature retirements almost immediately reversed and legal disputes with the Pakistan Cricket Board, have all featured in his colourful career.

He first hit the headlines in an ODI against Sri Lanka at Nairobi in the Singer Four Nations Cup of 1996/97.Having not batted in his only previous ODI, he "dashed to a hundred in 37 balls, 11 fewer than the previous limited overs record." (Wisden). His 102 came off 40 balls with 11 sixes and 6 fours, made out of a partnership of 126 for the second wicket. He had reached 50 in 18 balls, and was later to have three other of the fastest ODI half centuries to his credit.

The Almanac, however, hinted at controversy, even then, "He was said to be 16 years and 217 days old, but he looked older." Did the news of Afridi's innings reach the south Dublin suburb of Sandymount, where a cricket mad 12 year old red head was smashing the bowling of his sister and four brothers against the wall of his house and cause him to dream immortal dreams? Perhaps. The feat certainly inspired Afridi to another five ODI hundreds, including one in 45 balls against Pakistan at Kanpur in 2004/05. In all his 325 ODIs, he has scored 6695 runs at an average of 23.94 and taken 315 wickets at 34.23. His best bowling figures of 6-38 came in the first match of the series against Australia in the UAE in 2008/09. His wickets included Brad Haddin, Shane Watson, Andrew Symonds and Craig Ferguson, thus contributing importantly to Pakistan's victory.

His Test career began sensationally enough against Australia at Karachi in October 1998. It was the third game of a three match series and the visitors were 1 - 0 up. Batting first Australia were on 169-2, largely thanks to 96 from Michael Slater. Afridi joined the attack. ABC commentator Jim Maxwell reported the match for "Wisden Australia" - a regrettably now defunct publication.
"Australia went into reverse against the zippy leg spinner Shahid Afridi who grabbed three wickets in 13 balls." Inzaman-Ul Haq, surprisingly, leaped in the air at slip to catch Mark Waugh "with a thrilling one handed snare". Steve Waugh was leg before to the faster ball and Darren Lehman played on. Afridi took 2 more wickets to finish with 23.3 - 6 - 52 - 5. These remain his Test best bowling and his sole "5 for" at this level. He has currently taken 48 wickets at 36.60, which might be considered a rather poor return for a bowler of his talent.

As a batsman his 27 Tests have brought 1516 runs at 36.50 including five 100s and eight 50s. Almost all of his Test innings have been spectacular, none more so, perhaps than his highest score of 156 against India at Faisalabad in January 2006. The wicket was flat and a draw was foredoomed. Both sides piled up huge totals with the Indian innings being notable for a maiden Test hundred from MS Dhoni. Afridi, who had hit a belligerent 103 in the previous Test, made 156 out of 251 added while he was at the wicket. He faced 128 balls during his 208 minute innings, hitting six 6s and twenty 4s. There have, however, been some spectacular failures as well. None was more evident than on the ill fated Pakistan tour of England, which, it may be recalled, he began as captain of the Test side after four years playing only limited overs cricket at international level, though his record as captain in the shorter form had highly controversial, including a suspension for ball biting during an ODI in Perth. He made an extraordinary 31 in the first innings and 2 in the second, slogging wildly at every ball. Wisden said that both his innings had ended with "an intemperate heave". He resigned the Test captaincy immediately after the match becoming the shortest lived of his country's nine captains tried over the last ten years. What transpired during the remainder of that tour is very much sub judice as I write these words so is not commented on here.

Not a consistent success in his excursions into English cricket, he was signed as one of Ireland's two overseas players for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy in 2006., the other being his fellow Pakistani, off spinner Saqlain Mushtaq. It must be said that neither covered himself in glory, though Afridi contributed rather more than his team-mate. He arrived in time for the second match against Gloucestershire at Bristol and played a major part in a memorable victory. Ireland were restricted to 193-9 off their 50 overs, owing much to a fourth wicket stand of 73 between Afridi, who batted with unwonted restraint in making 36 off 42 balls, and Eoin Morgan (40). Then Afridi proceeded to produce figures of 8 - 6 - 4 - 3, destroying the lower middle order with his faster ball. Kyle McCallan (3-5) finished the job and Ireland were home by 47 runs.

The following day at Cardiff, Ireland went down to Glamorgan by 15 runs, with Afridi again to the fore. Having taken 2-38 in 8 overs, he then proceeded to share topscore of 54 Peter Gillespie. Afridi faced 41 balls, hitting four 4s and three 6s, Peter was rather more restrained.

Thereafter, however, Afridi did little, before returning to Pakistan with two matches still to play. He smashed a typical 27 against Middlesex before throwing his wicket away, but failed to reach double figures in his other two innings. He took only two further wickets, both against Kent, at a cost of 106 runs. Despite his first two matches, he should probably be seen as one of Ireland's less successful overseas players.

In 2011 Afridi became in a long running dispute with the Pakistan Cricket Board which led to his central contract being discontinued. He is on record as saying that he will not play for Pakistan while the same administration remains in control. This has led some observers to suggest that he will never play for his country again. That is as may be but as far as Pakistan cricket in general, and that of Sahibzada Mohammed Shahid Khan Afridi in particular, are concerned it as well to "Never Say Never Again."

Over seven years after the above was written, it appears that Shahid Afridi has called time on his career. He has not played for his country in an format during this period but has made one appearance in international cricket at T20 level. This came about when he captained the ICC XI against West Indies at Lords in the Hurricane Relief match in 2018. He took 1-34 and made 11 in a match that never really tested the Windies. He ended his first class career in 2016 having hit 5695 runs at 31.46 and taken 766 wickets at 26.68 while his List A career brought him 10881 runs at 24.95 and 510 wickets at 33.83. Perhaps had he approached his matches in a slightly less carefree manner, he might have achieved more, but then he would not have been the player whom many of us are glad to have seen.