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For Afridi, returning to Sharjah is like ‘homecoming’

Pakhtoons captain bares his heart on his favourite venue and how it helped launch his career

Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News
Shahid Afridi lines up to sign autographs along with Eoin Morgan and other international stars during the opening ceremony of the T10 League trophy at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Gulf News

Sharjah: When it comes to hard-hitting and fast-scoring cricket, the one cricketer synonymous with it is Pakistan’s all-rounder Shahid Afridi. At the age of 16, Afridi scored the fastest century in One Day Internationals off just 37 balls against Sri Lanka during a four-nation tournament in Nairobi in 1996 to announce his arrival.

When ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi used to come out to bat at Sharjah Cricket Stadium at his peak, the Emirate used to come to a standstill as the taxi drivers, mainly Pathans, the tribe to which Afridi belongs, leaving their duty, came to cheer for him.

Afridi is the captain of the Pakhtoons team competing the T10 league, which got under way on Thursday. Speaking at length to Gulf News on his batting style and career, Afridi said: “It’s always been great to play cricket in Sharjah. I have been able to play some good knocks here and the people here have always supported me. This time, I am inviting everyone on behalf of the Pakhtoons team and T10 tournament organisers to come and make this format a success.”

 This time, I am inviting everyone on behalf of the Pakhtoons team and T10 tournament organisers to come and make this format a success.”

 - Shahid Afridi » Pakhtoons captain  


Afridi feels that Sharjah Stadium is apt for this tournament. “The good thing is that every community lives in Sharjah and the teams represent their communities. The teams have players from the communities that they belong and hence they should all come out and support them and the cricket and their own heroes.”

When asked how he relates to the nickname ‘Boom Boom’, Afridi replied: “Whenever I go out to bat, the crowd calls out Boom Boom. If you are in good form, I will enjoy that but when I have struggled with my performance, it has put pressure on me. It is a good title and I consider myself luckiest to have got such a title.”

Afridi has set the tone for many hard-hitters but he had little hesitation naming a few he feels are peerless. “When I started playing, there was Saeed Anwar and Sanath Jayasuriya. They played cricket by hitting the ball hard; especially Jayasuriya was brilliant. I started cricket as a bowler and since I was a No 8 or No 9 batsman, I used to play this style and, when I got a chance to play up the order and created a world record, everything changed for me. I had to serve cricket as a batsman too. Nowdays, there are some very good hitters like Fakhar Zaman, who can smash the ball, and, of course, David Warner and Chris Gayle.”

Asked what hitting sixes meant to him, he replied: “It came naturally to me. As I mentioned before, I used to bat down at No 8 or No 9 and I did exactly what a lower order batsmen used to do.”

Does Afridi think that with the advent of T10, cricket will become even faster? “Obviously it will make cricket faster than T20 and bowlers and batsmen may come with new skills. At the end of the four days of this tournament, we will know what all will come out of this event,” he said, adding that his team is “a balanced one with good aggressive cricketers and hopefully we will do well in this competition.”

Despite having retired from international cricket, Afridi is still a people’s man and does a lot for charity. “My charity work is going very well. People are supportive. We are already running one hospital and in January-February I am making another hospital for mother and child. We have chosen very remote areas where people are struggling and don’t have clean drinking water. My foundation aims to provide health care to people and we distribute food every Friday and Saturday in Dubai and Ajman.”

So, how does Afridi like to be remembered in life? “As a good human being,” he signs off.

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