Pakistan doesn't deserve World T20 champion Shahid Afridi

He has faced nothing but ridicule.

 |  6-minute read |   26-03-2016
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In the 2009 World T20 final, Sri Lanka set a very modest target of 139. At 48/1, a Pakistani player who had the reputation of going "Boom Boom" all the time walked in and decided to curb his natural instincts, playing a relatively subdued game.

He crossed the rope for the first time on only his 20th ball and after that, comfortably launched himself to cross the finish line. A wicket and an unbeaten 54 off 40 (still slow by his standards) led to the "Man of the Match" award.

More importantly, Pakistan won a world event after 17 years. The pain of the defeat in the 2007 World T20 final against India was wiped out with that glorious victory.

Also read: Pakistan media let Shahid Afridi down

Shahid "Boom Boom" Afridi had finally surpassed his reputation and delivered the goods for his country.

Pakistan, in 2008, had seen the ouster of then president Pervez Musharraf, the kidnapping of its ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, by the Taliban, and one terrorist attack after another, including the high-profile Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad.

afridi-embed_032616070312.jpg Afridi has the second highest strike rate in World T20s.

A beleaguered nation erupted in joy and this win gave a much-needed succour to the Pakistani people. One would have thought that the country would cherish Afridi forever. More so now, because he has probably, statistically speaking, emerged as the greatest player of World T20.

He came with a bang and was "Man of the Series" in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2007 and helped his team reach the final. In terms of strike rate, he is the standout batsman. He has a strike rate of 154, second only to Aussie Glenn Maxwell who has played only 12 matches as against Afridi's 34.

The most curious part is that at the time Pakistan was kicked out of the 2016 edition, he had the most wickets in World T20s. He has taken 39 wickets at a decent economy rate of 6.7 as against Sri Lankan speedster Lasith Malinga's 38 wickets at an economy rate of 7.4.

Also read - #WT20: How many Shahid Afridis are there in the Indian team?

Even in the 2016 edition of the World T20, he gave his team a flying start by belting a fine 49 off a mere 19 balls and taking two wickets to boot in Pakistan's opening match against Bangladesh. With that, he got his record 11th international T20 "Man of the Match" award and now also has the most wickets in international T20s: 97.

The rest of the team failed to step up and Pakistan was ultimately eliminated.

But despite all this, he has faced nothing but ridicule. If Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma happen to be the butt of Twitter jokes in India, then it's Afridi for Pakistan. He also got a Lahore High Court notice for saying that he got more love from fans in India at the beginning of the tournament.

afridi-embed-1_032616070442.jpg Afridi has the most number of wickets in both T20Is and World T20s. 

To make matters worse, as soon as Pakistan lost against India, it was indicated that he would be sacked at the end of the tournament. Which board does that? At that time it was theoretically possible for Pakistan to win all its remaining matches and still lift the trophy.

It must be said that Pakistan cricket is the biggest opponent and enemy of Pakistan cricket. Always!

The following Pakistani captains have lost a World Cup match against India:

Imran Khan, Aamer Sohail, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Malik (2), Shahid Afridi (2), Mohammad Hafeez (2) and Misbah-ul-Haq.

The following Pakistani captains have won a World Cup match against India:

None!

So why then has Afridi been singled out for special reprobation? Pakistani model Qandeel Baloch had offered to strip if Pakistan beat India and promised Afridi "anything" (whatever that meant) if the team won.

Instead she got her 15 minutes of fame with a viral video and with her blasting of Afridi trending on Twitter. She bawled like a two-year-old, screaming "I hate you Afridi", threatening him not to ever return to Pakistan because he had humiliated his country.

Said an editorial in a Pakistani website after the India match: "The captain did what he usually does, unable to contribute with bat and ball and making baffling decisions on the field."

In light of the above statistics, you can see how ridiculous that sounds. Pakistan's greatest T20 batsman and the one with most international T20 wickets is written about in such a shabby manner.

Another report quoted a source within the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) saying, "The board has taken serious notice of rumours and speculations that there could be groupings in the team and cases of some players underperforming to settle personal scores."

As you can see, an inquisition is going to take place in Pakistan and Afridi may be made the fall guy despite his immense contributions. A gentle reminder that South Africa and New Zealand are yet to win a single World Cup and Australia is yet to achieve it in the T20 format.

If any player in the world manages to win even one World Cup, he has to be respected. There are no two ways about it. Kapil Dev leading India to the world title in 1983 is etched in our memories and the World T20 win in 2007 under Mahendra Singh Dhoni still feels absolutely great. The World Cup win in 2011, again under Dhoni, is still fresh in our minds.

In ODIs, Afridi has hit a hundred in 37, 45, 53 and 68 balls. That's really something.

We are living in a golden age of batting. After ODI double centurions Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag retired, we have seen two doubles by Rohit Sharma and the sublime match-winning abilities of Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

There is Afridi.

Then there is South Africa's AB de Villiers.

And West Indies' Chris Gayle.

It's better to sit back and watch the masters in action instead of quibbling over a loss here and there.

But Afridi can take heart. Just like the famous Casablanca line, "We'll always have Paris", Afridi could well exclaim, "We'll always have Lord's!*"

(*Pakistan won the World T20 at the Lord's in 2009 where Afridi was the "Man of the Match".)

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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