A legend in his own right, Sahibzada Muhammad Shahid Khan Afridi a.k.a Lala a.k.a Boom Boom, has decided to hang up his boots after an illustrious career spanning 21 years of international cricket. A born entertainer, Afridi captured the imagination of his wide base of fans since THAT innings. A bowling all-rounder or a batsman who could bowl a few fast leggies, Afridi never ceased to amaze and bewilder. When his bat went silent – and that was a usual occurrence, his bowling would come to his rescue. And when both his batting and bowling went down south, his on and off field antics would make the headlines.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, except for may be once when he decided to retire from Test Cricket mid-tour in 2010 while being a captain, Lala struck anxiety both in the hearts of his opponents and fans alike. He is one of the most decorated cricketers of Pakistan having won the man of the match award for 32 times.
Here is a look at five of his most memorable performances:
102 against Sri Lanka at Nairobi Gym, October 04, 1996
The innings that made Afridi into a household name in Pakistan though that match was not televised live on national TV in Pakistan. The late evening news or the Khabarnama at 9 PST, was usually a dull affair but on October 04th, it wasn’t. Most of the Pakistanis found out about a certain Pathan boy from Karachi who had hit a world record fastest 37-ball century punctuated with 11 sixes and 6 fours and helped Pakistan win a crucial tie against Sri Lanka. His world record stood for 18 years and was broken by Corey Andersen in 2014. The impact of that innings was such that each time Afridi stepped out to bat, he was expected to hit the bowler and his dog out of the park.
141 against India, Ist Test at Chennai, Jan 28-31, 1999
After scoring 11 in the first innings of the first test match between India and Pakistan at Chennai, Afridi came back to get 3 wickets on a helpful surface to peg India back. But it was his batting in the second innings that inspired confidence into a batting line up that consisted of Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and a young Muhammad Yusuf (Yousuf Youhana at the time). He scored a pulsating 141 on 191 balls against the likes of Srinath and Kumble. His 141 runs were the cornerstone of one of the most remarkable test victories of the Pakistan test team. Though Saqlain Mushtaq took 10 wickets and Sachin Tendulkar made a century, my man of the match was Lala.
51 against South Africa at Nottingham, 1st Semi-final, ICC World T20, June 18, 2009
After winning the toss and electing to bat, Pakistan soon found themselves in a strife at 28-2 in 2.3 overs. That the team actually reached this far into the tournament was a mini miracle in itself. Interestingly, it was an Afridi wonder- catch off the bowling of Umar Gul against New Zealand in one of the previous matches, that many believe, had sparked the stuttering Pakistan team into action. It was a now or never moment for the team as they had lost to India in the finals of the previous edition of the tournament in 2007. Afridi strode out to bat and minutes later was commanding the proceedings. His boundary hitting trail against Johan Botha where he hit Botha for four consecutive boundaries set the hearts racing. He was finally out for 51 in 34 balls. Later that evening, he came back and broke the back of the South African chase by bowling out Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers. Man of the match Afridi had finally taken his team to the finals of the world cup.
54 Not Out against Sri Lanka at Lord’s, Final ICC World T20, June 21, 2009
A rampant Sri Lankan team that had staved off every challenge on their way to the finals found a familiar opponent in Pakistan at Lord’s. Sri Lanka had been flying high as their top order and their mystery spinners were having a ball. They had already beaten Pakistan in one of the group matches and Shahid Afridi bagged a golden duck in that match though his bowling was stable and he took 2 wickets for 23 runs in his allotted 4 overs. It did not matter on the big day though. He walked out at No. 3 into a comfortable situation and took charge of the run chase. He ran hard, hit sixes and most fittingly remained un-beaten at 54 in 40 balls. Ian Chappell, the famous Australian Test Captain and a broadcaster, later said that Shahid Afridi deserved to be the man of the tournament. Shahid Afridi came back home to a hero’s welcome and people started likening him to the charismatic Imran Khan.
Biting the ball against Australia at Perth, Jan 31, 2010
An incident that refuses to leave Afridi, biting the ball was a bizarre thing to say the least. Pakistan were on a long tour of Australia in which they had lost all the matches, some even from winning positions. Afridi was the stand-in captain in the fifth ODI of the 5-match ODI series at Perth. Pakistan were in a position to win as they had Australia 7 down for 178 while chasing 213 to win. In an attempt to perhaps get the ball to swing or seam or do something silly like he did, Afridi decided to use his teeth to change the seam on the ball. Later he pleaded guilty for tampering and served a two match ban.