Shahid Afridi, a name which certainly needs no introduction, has enjoyed one rollercoaster of a career with so many highs and lows that one ends up wondering whether he ever had enough.
The flamboyant all-rounder, known mostly for his larger than life persona on and off the field and his aggressive style of batting, remained the darling of cricket fans in Pakistan and around the world for the most part of 20 years he donned the national colours.
During this time he made and broke several records which include the one he created in just his first international outing —the fastest century he so mesmerised everyone with — while other records have also graced the man who had so many times stood up for Pakistan but was also guilty of having let the nation down with his poor shot selection and even poorer timing of aggressiveness and irresponsible batting.
The biggest criticism Afridi faced during his career is his inconsistency and many who argue against the man claim that he could have enjoyed a much better career had he been more consistent. Those who argue in his favour wave his statistics around to prove the man’s pedigree; and Afridi certainly does have statistics in his favour.
Afridi is the youngest century maker and at one point the fastest as well — first New Zealand’s Corey Anderson and then South Africa’s AB de Villiers broke that record which now stands at 31 balls. He also has most sixes in ODIs and has also won the most man of the match awards by any Pakistani.
These statistics certainly are impressive but delve deeper into them and you find them to be a tad bit misleading.
Afridi was inducted into the team as a replacement for the injured Mushtaq Ahmed and primarily as a leg-spinner.
While he became more famous for his batting exploits, his bowling was quite lethal and bamboozled even the smartest of batsmen at times. Naturally, he ended up taking a lot of wickets and is Pakistan’s third-highest wicket-taker in the 50-over format with 396 scalps to his name — only the Sultan of Swing themselves, Wasim Akram (502) and Waqar Younis (416), are ahead of him.
While the statistics here are impressive, Afridi managed to take these wickets in a whopping 393 matches — more than anyone for Pakistan.
Not only that, Afridi’s strike rate of 44.7 is higher than anyone in the top 10 wicket-takers for the country.
When Afridi’s statistics are compared on an international level, the findings are quite similar.
He is the fifth-highest wicket-taker of all time in ODIs but he has again played more matches than everyone above him and he also has the worst strike-rate among those players.
In addition to that, his average per wicket (34.51) is the third-worst in that list of bowlers with more than 200 ODI wickets behind New Zealand’s Chris Harris (37.50) and Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuria (36.75).
Afridi has won a total of 32 man-of-the-match awards during his ODI career; the highest by any Pakistani and the joint fifth highest in the world.
Once again, while this statistic is quite impressive, the fact that he won these awards at an average of one every 12.43 matches highlights the fact that it’s not as impressive as it seems.
Saeed Anwar, the second-highest man of the match award recipient for Pakistan, boasts an average of 8.82 and took only 247 matches to receive 28 awards in comparison to Afridi’s 398; even Mohammad Hafeez has a better average than Afridi with 11.17.
In T20Is, Afridi holds the highest number of man of the match awards (11), however, he has played almost twice the number of matches than second placed Virat Kohli, who has 10.
Blistering and not-so-blistering batting
For so long, Afridi openly claimed that his position was at the top of the batting order and that his batting suffered in the latter part of his career due to the team management sending him to bat lower down the order.
Statistics, however, prove otherwise.
Out of the 18 times he has been named the man of the match, 10 times it was due to his contribution with the bat and 10 of them came after 2005 when he started playing down the order.
If that was not enough, the 37-year-old has the joint third highest number of ducks in T20Is,
whereas in all formats collectively, he features on eighth position.
Many remember Afridi the captain for his heroics in the 2011 World Cup where he guided the team to their best performance since 1999 by taking Pakistan to the semi-final; only to lose to hosts India at Mohali.
Impressive as that is, it doesn’t represent the entire picture as Afridi ranks a lowly 11th out of the 15 ODI captains who have led the side in more than 20 ODIs, while in T20Is, the format in which he played in the latter stages of his career, he has the lowest win percentage amongst all six captains with more than 20 T20Is.
Disappointing performances in big events
Afridi represented Pakistan in four World Cups, where his average was disappointingly low at just a little over 14, and he failed to score even a single half-century in 24 innings.
In the Champions Trophy, his average is just over 15 from 13 innings with only one half-century to his name.
While Afridi was the joint highest wicket-taker at the 2011 World Cup where he claimed 21 wickets, 11 of them came against non-Test playing nations — Kenya and Canada. In the three other World Cups that he played, he managed to pick just nine wickets from 16 innings.
In World T20s, Afridi is the leading wicket-taker with 39 wickets, but has one of the worst averages (23.25 — ranked 38 out of 50) and one of the worse strike rate (20.7 — ranked 42 out of 50).
Afridi might scertainly be one of the best entertainers to have represented Pakistan, but he certainly does not have the pedigree to be called as one of the greatest in the country’s cricketing history.