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The superficial theatrics of Shahid Afridi

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Shahid_Afridi_Pakistan_cricketIn a way, for Pakistan, the 2016 T20 World Cup began and ended with Shahid Afridi, who managed to make the most of what is likely (probably (possibly)) his last international stint for Pakistani cricket. And not all of it was positive, what with him courting controversies both in India and Pakistan right till the end of Pakistan’s time in the tournament.

That it would turn out to be such a tournament for him, and for his team, would have been the last thing on the veteran’s mind. Living up to his nickname, he got Pakistan off to the right start in their opening match against Bangladesh. However, this ended up being the only match that Pakistan was able to win.

More importantly, it was also the only match where Shahid Afridi justified his presence. He emerged as the player of the match for his all-round contribution, but beyond this one match, he barely lasted long enough to show anything more than brief cameos that didn’t help his team at all.

In hindsight, it was quite par for the course of Afridi’s career. Over the course of the two decades he has been around, this wasn’t the first time that he had been a letdown. Nor will it be the last, if he does stick around for a while longer instead of hanging up his boots as expected. While Afridi’s remains quintessentially unchanged, a lot has changed for his audiences.

 

At the start of his career, Shahid Afridi’s playing style was perceived with something of an affectionate amusement. He was, to use a popular metaphor, the Jack of All Trades encompassed within cricket. But it was fascinating to see him either dot the match with boundaries and sixes or fail equally hugely, with the latter overpowering the former substantially and frequently.

It was thus a problem that Afridi the Jack not only failed to turn into a Master, but also became an embarrassing parody of himself. But while his innumerable peculiarities – including his bemusingly repetitive cycle of retirements and come backs – didn’t affect his fan-following, they also gave way to wariness about his dependability.

Shahid Afridi’s responsibility as the skipper of the national team accentuated this cautiousness, contradicting the significance of the responsibility. An example of how true this was can be made out of his throwaway statements regarding Kashmir – which is quite a sensitive issue as the hosts and Pakistan have quite a complicated relationship far as diplomatic and political ties go. What’s more, he did so twice, unheeding of the flak he’d received the first time.

And while expressing opinions isn’t bad, a captain, specifically the captain of the country with the fraught past with India, Afridi needed to be more mindful of his words.

The reason for his captaincy could then be placed on the fact that Afridi’s had a relatively vast amount of experience over the others, rather than him displaying any particular specific quality of captaincy. And though it’s true that he does have the temperament to lead a complicated side, who try and adapt to the situation at hand, Shahid Afridi’s somewhat ad-hoc leadership skills have caused more inconsistencies in, rather than lending stability and cohesion to, the team’s performance.

But what’s more problematic for Pakistan is that for all his cons, Afridi is the best bet to captain the team. Apart from Afridi, there’s no one to take up the role and bring about the kind of results that the country needs for its revival. This is why, despite all the problems with him governing the team, persisting with Afridi seemed like the only choice the team had before.

Knowing Afridi’s preference for theatrics though, it could then be another story of him overstepping his verbal boundaries rather than going past the on-field ones, making a letdown of his final hurrah.



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