Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi’s announcing his retirement may not have come as a surprise, but it is, nevertheless, disappointing. Alas, what was feared happened. Yet another talented cricketer bites the dust, as far as his playing career is concerned anyway. Nicknamed ‘Boom Boom’ by his fans, Afridi’s success story was nothing short of a fairytale. He knew how to pull crowds to stadiums. Spectators would leave after he would be given out, for he was their hero, the one they came to expect fireworks from. And with his aggressive batting style he rarely disappointed anyone even if he was given out after facing two balls because even those two balls would be converted into boundaries.
He made his ODI debut on 2 October 1996 against Kenya.Discovered at the age of 16 in 1996 when he hit the fastest century, a 37-ball 100, in an ODI against Sri Lanka. Afridi later became better known as a valuable all-rounder and then recognised as one of the best leg spinners. Not only does he hold a record for hitting the highest number of sixes in the history of the 50-over format, he is also the leading Twenty20 wicket taker.
Giving match winning performances, especially in the World Twenty20 Championship in 2009, which Pakistan won, Afridi became the obvious choice for captaincy after Younis Khan’s retirement from the format. Later, he was also appointed the ODI captain for the 2010 Asia Cup. The 2011 World Cup saw him leading the Pakistan side from the front when he took the team to the semi-finals, something which he had promised to do. Taking 21 wickets, he also became one of the top bowlers of the event. Pakistan’s next outing after the World Cup saw us winning the ODI series against the West Indies but the triumphant captain on his return from the Caribbean got himself into trouble when he complained and criticized to the media about interference regarding team selection from an unnamed source (which was obvious).
In doing so perhaps Afridi was hoping that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ijaz Butt would call him over to inquire what was bothering him. Instead the careless talk earned him a show cause notice from the PCB. Then, on May 19, he was also removed from captaincy of the ODI squad when Test team captain Misbah replaced him for the two-match Ireland series. Already disturbed by his father’s illness, the dynamic player known to follow his heart finally decided to quit. He is 31 and at the peak of his career. This is certainly not the time for him to go.
One thing which irritates me is whenever; there are some positive performances by any sportsman, our so-called board always one way or the other shows unenthusiastic attitude towards players. This is not restricted to Cricket. Sports like squash, snooker, and even in hockey, governing bodies always according to their history interrupt the ongoing game. Frankly, there could be only two reasons for the one could be ‘Boards did not like their players success’ or ‘they like their players success too much’. On the other hand, we must know that in Pakistan whenever players are given too much power they dominate their boards!
On the contrary, we have a very angry PCB chairman who believes in punishing every little slip up even though he himself may have caused blunders. There is no room for forgiveness in his books. This uncompromising and inflexible attitude has hurt others like Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan too, so no one really blames Afridi who has refused to play under the current PCB setup.
Soon after he called it quits on May 30, Afridi was backed by Federal Sports Minister Shaukatullah Khan who said that the player was left with no other choice and that he will do all that he can to have the situation reversed. Both the Senate and National Assembly’s Standing Committees on Sports are also on Afridi’s side. They have also asked PCB’s Patron-in-Chief President Asif Ali Zardari to intervene and reorganise the board that includes the removal of its Chairman Ijaz Butt.
Afridi, who withdrew from the Ireland matches due to his father’s illness in the United States, said he was roughly treated by the PCB. Some of the Statements are as follows:-
“I play for my country and for my people,” he said. “I led the team to the semi-final of the World Cup but the reward was such that I was not sure about my captaincy.” Afridi said his decision to retire was final, as he would not play under the current PCB, headed by Chairman Ijaz Butt, but hinted at a comeback if there was a change in leadership.
“This current board treats players roughly and I will not play under this set-up. But if this set-up is changed only then will I consider coming back because I have always played for my people and will play for them.” Afridi said he had battled against the game’s match-fixing menace and had put a disjointed Pakistan team back together.
Afridi finished as player of the tournament in the first two editions of the World Twenty20, in 2007 and 2009, helping Pakistan to the title in the latter tournament in England.
“I served the country to the best of my ability but did not deserve this treatment. I wanted to leave cricket on a happy note, but that did not come about,” Afridi said.
However, I would have expected Afridi to put all the politics aside and emerge as the bigger person under the horrible state of affairs. I thought there was a true leader in him just as there was in Imran Khan. I hoped that he would continue to storm the nation with his feats after being mentored by Wasim just as Wasim had done when Imran guided him. I imagined Afridi to retire like Shoaib Akhtar, with tears of love for the game in his eyes, and not the detestation that he portrayed. I urge Afridi to reconsider his statements, put his ego or self esteem aside and serve the team regardless of his inconsistency with PCB. This is too sour a note for a talent like him to withdraw.