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Why cricket will not be the same without Afridi

ANALYST
Feature
755   //    02 Jun 2018, 15:23 IST

ICC World XI v West Indies - T20
Shahid Afridi bid adieu to the game as part of a World XI in Lord's

Cricket needs its characters to sustain itself as a spectator sport. One such unforgettable character departed the international stage yesterday and, whether you like it or not, the game will never be the same without him.

Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi hung up his boots at the most perfect moment possible. Lord's - the proverbial home of cricket - was the setting, a charity match for a worthy cause was the occasion and he was the captain of a World XI side to boot. Even Mr. Boom Boom could not have written the script better had he tried his hand at it. What's more, the game was controversially given full international status, which meant the former Pakistan captain had played an official game as his farewell outing without the accompanying pressures of an international.

Unique in every sense

There will not be another Shahid Afridi, that is for certain. For one, he seemed to exist outside temporal considerations for most of his career. Afridi had found the fountain of eternal youth very early in his sporting life and remained 17 till he suddenly turned 38 and his body became creaky after years of stress like any other illustrious, but ordinary sportsperson's would.

But Afridi was not ordinary by any stretch of the imagination; his agelessness was a running gag that people used to poke fun at but something he never used to mind. But that wasn't the only thing that set him apart. Clearly, he wasn't the most talented cricketer of his generation but he remained one of its most famous.

One reason is his longevity; he seems to have played with/against everyone from Courtney Walsh to Wasim Akram to Virat Kohli. The other is his numbers - more than 11,000 runs in international cricket and 540-odd wickets as a leg-spinner who rarely turned the ball.

These are impressive numbers, but will the world remember him for these? Not quite, Afridi signified something intangible. He broke into the scene as a boy who scored an ODI century off 37 balls, quite unimaginable in the mid-'90s and a record that seemed impossible to break at that point of time.

Clearly, the hangover of that particular moment never left him and he remained the batsman who could turn up and change the complexion of any game with his power-hitting. He could strike fear into the hearts of any opponent because of his innate ability to hit sixes off any delivery. No other cricketer deserves his nickname more.

His bowling was also unique. Ironically, Afridi came into the Pakistan national side as a leg-spinner but became a power-hitter with his early success. However, he was a very efficient bowler especially because of his signature faster delivery, the one bowled like a pacer, that often became an unplayable yorker.

But more than anything, he will be remembered as the most colorful personality to emerge from a nation that has given us its share of flamboyant cricketers. His captaincy lacked strategy but was full of passion, he stood out for his unusual, and sometimes controversial tweets and some downright weird comments that earned him a lot of trolls.

But that is who he was, and he never changed as a person or a cricketer and truly deserved the guard of honor he got at the end of the match in Lord's for being who he was as a person and a cricketer.

What is your favourite Shahid Afridi moment? Tell us in the comments section below:

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