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Finding Neverland Blog Archive

Monday, March 3, 2014

Shahid Afridi - The Hero of Dhaka

 
With one stroke in Sharjah, Javed Miandad "was remarked to have cut across the Indian ego like a knife slash…," wrote Rahul Bhattacharya in Pundits from Pakistan.

As Shahid Afridi dispatched the ball mightily into the Dhaka sky, the leading edge just about carried over the long-on fielder. It was Pakistan's first one-wicket win over India since April 18, 1986.

When nine was needed off the last four balls, Afridi smashed R Ashwin for a six over extra cover. Afridi didn't leave it as late as Miandad and Tauseef Ahmed did.

As Ashwin slowly moved towards the popping crease, Afridi was the centre of attention. He shuffled, smashed and ran. Not in the direction of the non-striker's end but towards the general direction of the dressing room and his onrushing team-mates.

Afridi knew it was a six even before the ball dropped behind the fielder; the trademark star-man celebration was back, this time wearing pads and gloves with a bat in his hand.

Later, he told Star Sports that he was confident of handling Ashwin's variations. For the earlier six, he said, he had set his mind on the exact spot to target.

"I knew that I could hit his carrom ball and I had spotted it. It was pulled back slightly but I connected it really well," Afridi said. "He had the field set on the on-side, keeping the fielders up on the off-side. I thought that if I could play through extra cover, I can find runs through that region."

Afridi readily admitted that he had let the team down with some ill-advised shots against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and he had set his mind on getting it right this time. He spoke candidly about how sometimes he gets confused when asked to bat for long.

"I had played some stupid shots in the previous games to get out. I know that my batting is very important to my team, so I have to be consistent in my batting. It helps the team a lot. I had to play sensibly. I wanted to bring down the [target].

"If I have 15-25 overs to bat, captain tells me to play singles and doubles. I become double-minded. It is not in my nature. The lesser the overs, I feel better and play better. I play single-mindedly. That's what makes me comfortable."

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq believes that this win will stop the criticism of Afridi. "I am very happy about Shahid Afridi, who has taken a lot of criticism in the last two matches," Misbah said. "I think he showed experience and won us a game that almost went out of our control.

"We expect innings like that from him. Whenever he [takes his] time in the middle and plays sensibly, he can be very dangerous. He already did it quite a few times, and this was one of his best innings. I think that the game was in our hands in the second-last over but after that it was quite difficult. Still, we knew that if Afridi can get the strike back, we will have a chance. He played very well. The last two sixes were tremendous."

Afridi has plenty of stand-out innings, and this 34 not out will be right up there, as it came against India under intense pressure. The game could have gone either way, and plenty of people had expected him to mess it up.

Nobody thought that about Miandad back in 1986. He had been batting on 110 off 113 balls when he hit it like a home-run. In an earlier paragraph in the book, Bhattacharya had called Miandad the "…purveyor of the single most famous stroke in Pakistan's history, perhaps even India's history…"

Eighteen years into Afridi's career - one that includes a World Twenty20 trophy, a record for the fastest ODI century that stood for over 17 years, and many sixes and smiles and the star man - he has played another defining knock. One that fans will continue to relive on YouTube years from now.

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