The man who wanted to be king
KARACHI: A deafening silence has filled the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka. A little over 25,000 hearts beat with excitement and anticipation, but no other sound can be heard. The time is a bit more than half past nine at night. It is the second of March of the year 2014. Shahid Khan Afridi is hitting in the middle.
Pakistan needs nine runs from the last four installments to win this already epic Asian Cup game against India’s arch rivals. It’s been 18 years and more than 300 international one-day cricket matches, but everyone still wants to see Afridi’s bat.
Ravichandran Ashwin has the ball in his hand. Afridi backs up and examines the field, observing the area on the side of the leg with determination and resolution. He decides. Ashwin runs and makes bolos, Afridi makes space in the off-side and gets hard. The ball sails high, suspended in the air for a fraction of a second, before passing over the fence. It’s a six!
The crowd explodes. Audiences from Karachi to Khyber breathe deeply. Ashwin has his head in his hands. Pakistan still needs three races of three deliveries, but already, Afridi has exceeded expectations. Anyone who knows a bit about cricket will tell you that six was hard work.
You see, Shahid Afridi has always been a dynamic game changer. He carries his heart on his sleeve and carries the crowd in the palm of his glove. In his first tickets to the country, he broke a record of thirty-seven century balls. Everything you’ve always wanted about cricket is this amazing incredible. He desperately wants to win on a high note.
Compared to other sports, cricket is ruthless in terms of happy endings. Batsmen are almost always fired. Only a lucky few achieve the winning races of their team. Many legends have finished the tickets that change the game in tears and sobs. The brutality of the sport leaves little room for fairy tales.
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Afridi does not recognize the importance of the previous shot. He is focused on only one thing. He wants to win it with style. Ashwin is ready to play again. The crowd urges the bowler and the field captain to move on, everyone in the stadium knows what comes next. The ball throws out of the leg, Afridi sends it towards the night sky. It’s an advantage, but the energy generated by the batter cleans the ropes. Afridi has won it for Pakistan!
The match would eventually become one of the most memorable victories for green shirts against men in blue since the two began competing in cricket. A final player of one of the most talented and beloved, though inconsistent and conflicting, players in the world of cricket would feed cross-border jokes for months.
Afridi is certainly not the best player to step on a cricket field. However, it may well be one of the most misunderstood. He would have known that people expected him to fail. Few could foresee how this irresponsibly aggressive batter would face the world champions, also in a situation of pressure.
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But then, few people could have predicted that this bowling game from the streets of Karachi would continue to play for Pakistan for approximately two decades. Pakistan has always been a team of fast fire pitchers, specialized spinners and proper hitters. How could this guy break records or win the country in a world cup? He did both.
Since Afridi walked on the field against Kenya in 1996, he is used to being discharged. His career has been based on his ability to hit the ball outside the park, but also on his strange ability to pick up the right windows at the right time. He can play better than most in the Pakistani team even today. However, he is always underestimated.
In a new book that aims to talk about his career as a cricketer and the ups and downs of being in the media spotlight for twenty years, Shahid Afridi joins Wajahat Saeed Khan and reveals the things he has kept to himself. same while representing the country.
Game Changer was published by Harper Collins Publishers in Pakistan on April 30, 2019. It was released in India a little earlier. The book comes with an autographed free poster of the superstar carefully tucked inside, and has only 219 pages, which allows a comfortable reading on a lazy summer afternoon.
Shahid Khan Afridi is a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team who holds the record for hitting the most sixes in One-Day Internationals. Wajahat Saeed Khan is an Emmy-nominated journalist who has reported from fifteen countries, covering conflicts, diplomacy, politics and media for digital, cable and other networks.
The Express Tribune spoke with Khan about the new book, cricket, politics and controversies surrounding the former cricketer. The parts of the conversation with the author have been reproduced below for interested readers.
Pakistan has seen many game changes in the cricket team over the years. Do you think we’ll ever see another Shahid Afridi?
No, I do not think Pakistan, or cricket, see another Shahid Afridi. He is too volatile, too talented. Afridi is too complicated and complex.
There are too many things happening. Chemistry, biology and physics have come together in a way that is not the perfect storm, because that would mean many more victories, better averages, but what we have with us is the imperfect hero.
That is what clearly is for millions of Pakistanis, and not Pakistanis, for that matter.
The arguments made in the book to change the structure of domestic cricket seem very well composed. Do you think Lala has a future as a cricket manager?
No. Clearly, Lala is ambitious, she says so much. I do not think there is anything wrong with ambition and competition. In fact, it is quite competitive and lit.
Afridi is also aware of himself and quite practical in his political analysis. If you read Game Changer, you will notice that it is quite balanced. And he has not sat on the fence, like many stars, cricketers and actors, etc.
However, I think he has made it quite clear in the book that he does not have the guts to train. He is not that guy. He says he does not have the tolerance to be a coach, and although he has not absolutely rejected a PCB position, I do not think Lala works well under limited authority.
Afridi does not respond well to authority, and that is what the PCB is. It’s a bunch of fat cats in bad suits, and I do not think Lala fits into that regime.
Nobody will say no to the PCB if the work is correct and the opportunity is correct, I think it is smart enough for that. Like his biographer, I do not think he’s made for work, and I do not think he’s making that play either.
Lala devotes many pages of the book to advocate for a more peaceful relationship between Pakistan and India. Can you explain the role you can play in a personal capacity to achieve change in this regard?
Afridi is unequivocally clear that the ties between India and Pakistan must improve. It almost follows the school of thought of Imran Khan: take, take a step and we take, take two.
However, unlike many other people, especially in India, and some in Pakistan, who think that neither country should participate in cricket because cricket could give an economic advantage to the other party, he follows the path opposite. Afridi believes that cricket is a gateway to the normalization of ties between Pakistan and India.
With cricket, he explains how with the local and out-of-home series, not only in India, but also wants to invite the Indians to Pakistan, normalization will continue.
Afridi believes that cricket follows commerce, business opportunities, improved visa regimes, levels of sports interaction, inter-university and interschool, and good, fun. He is that believer.
What kind of paper can you play? I have the feeling that Afridi could be a great ambassador to relive the cricket ties. He has not formalized a role, I do not think he has thought it through, but I think Afridi will be an incredible ambassador, especially after this book, when he presses for cricket diplomacy.
In the book, a considerable part towards the end is devoted to long messages about local politics. The life stories of athletes tend to avoid this. Why did you decide to put this in the book?
When it comes to politics, this is a very political book. A rejection that we are receiving from certain sensitive sectors is that what does a cricketer have to do with politics? Why is Shahid Afridi weighing on politics?
Why does someone influence politics? People get involved in politics because they are concerned citizens, because they are concerned about the country in which we live. He is a concerned citizen, has a political opinion and is trying to influence.
As a reporter who has been working in this country, covering politics, security, economy and what not, including culture, I think Afridi takes a position. Many people do not.
Many stars of their value, of their stature, sit on the fence. Do not jump out of it. Because when you jump, you get into the dung, and many stars, men and women, sit on the fence, they sit very much on that fence and they stay clean.
I think he has been brave enough to jump from the fence, and I think the best thing is that he has not taken a partisan position, he has a healthy skepticism for everyone. He likes Imran, and he does not like Imran. In certain things, he likes Nawaz, and he does not like Nawaz. In certain things, he likes the army and believes that the army can do more.
The book is divided into thirty-eight short chapters and includes a brilliant foreword by former Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram. In addition, praise is also cited about the man known affectionately as Lala in his own country by great players like Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar and Kevin Pietersen. The account focuses on how Afridi had the dreamed debut, but a disappointing retirement.
Although the authors argue that the book is not a traditional biography covering the early years of Lala, his rise to fame and his ups and downs in the great games, however, this is exactly what the book eventually ends up being. The claim that the volume covers the personal history of a sports star in a “war on terror” zone is simply a matter of coincidence, explained in brief and practical terms.
Afridi addresses the controversy in the book, especially the things one would expect him to address, and even many other things that have gotten him into trouble since the publication of the work. For example, his fights with former captains Javed Miandad and Waqar Younis make up a large part of his size, as do his flirtations with politics. His controversial comments about not letting his daughters play outdoor sports have also attracted the wrath of the media.
Perhaps the most sensational revelations of the biography are two admissions made by Afridi regarding her age and her role in the 2010 spot repair scandal. In the book, Afridi admits that she was born in 1975, and that the age in her certificates of birth were incorrect. During the promotions for the book, the most complete has said that the year of his birth is actually 1977.
Regarding the spot repair scandal, Afridi notes that he was aware that cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir were involved in suspicious activity through a family contact in London.
According to Lala, this family contact had obtained a broken phone used by Mazhar Majeed, the man who facilitated the repair bets on behalf of the three convicted men. The contact passed to Afridi some conversations of text messages between Majeed and Butt. Afridi passed this on to the team management, who did not take action.
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Another interesting story that is detailed in the book is about Afridi and his relationship with the former captain and coach of the Pakistan team Waqar Younis. Afridi reveals that he has had a fight with Waqar since the 2003 World Cup, when Waqar faced Wasim Akram for captaincy.
The bad faith between the two continued when Waqar became the team coach during the time that Afridi was the captain, and led to many disagreements in the locker room. However, Afridi maintains that he and Waqar have resolved the previous differences and now get along with each other.
The book also presents some sporadic encounters with Javed Miandad, in which Miandad is presented as a bit selfish. Afridi admits that she never really approved of Miandad since an incident early in her career. The story of what happened, where Miandad refuses to let Afridi practice before a great game, is a fascinating read.
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Some chapters of the book deal with political and social issues. Of these, the most convincing seem to be Lala’s views on the administrative reform of the cricket structure in Pakistan. His defense of peace with India, and a deep sense of goodwill for his compatriots, underlines most of his work.
According to the authors, the book was compiled to reflect the batting style of the off-road star. Afridi aspires to make things clear once and for all. Writing is instinctive, frank and unconventional. The book will undoubtedly be a bestseller throughout the crazy subcontinent of cricket. Wajahat Saaed Khan, who wrote the book ghostly, presented the story of Boom Boom Afridi as honestly as he could. Although it is plagued with some errors of fact, perhaps one can forgive the authors, since they operated with a limited budget without an adequate editorial or research team.
Several years after Lala reached those magical sixes in Dhaka, the crowds continue to chant her name. Now he leads a nonprofit organization that does a wonderful job for the underprivileged. He is married, with a happy family. The seasons will pass, the hairs will turn gray and the children will grow. But “Shahid Afridi, your beauty” will always remain in the collective memory of a nation.