The burden of Afridi


Never a stickler for tradition, Shahid Afridi is one of the most exciting players in one-day cricket. Scorer of the fastest one-day century, his game is all about speed. Afridi can give you hope with a swish or three of the bat and, equally swiftly, take it away with his foibles. In an interview with Nagraj Gollapudi, Afridi tries to explain his journey so far and when and why he is emotional.

'Sometimes if I decide to hit a particular ball to three different areas instead of one, in a planned fashion, it does work, but I have got out often when I play premeditated'

How has modern-day batting changed?
The most important change is to become more selective in your shots and not take too many chances and if you stick around it becomes a big problem for the bowlers. Cricket has changed a lot, as earlier teams would be happy with 270 or 280, but now it has peaked past the 300-run mark. So the batting has become more fast and the batsmen are more positive and have become more aggressive.

Is it difficult for you to then adjust to be more patient?
Not actually. Batsmen like myself, [Virender] Sehwag, [Adam] Gilchrist, [Sanath] Jayasuriya, [Nathan] Astle, play our own way and if we click then on our day we can beat any team and can make big runs.

Have you ever gone in to bat keeping the record in mind?
When I made the fastest ODI century I never went in with the mindset of making a world record. You don't plan for a world record, it just happens if it is your fate.

Which is the best one-day innings you've played?
The century against India in Kanpur in 2004-05 series (102 off 45 balls). It was a crucial game in the six-game rubber, with the teams level at two-all. We had got out India for an average score, but it was a difficult wicket to bat on and the shots weren't coming easily. But I started middling the ball and I got the confidence to capitalise on all bowlers and since I made the runs when they were needed, that innings was more important [than the others].

How much of your batting is premeditated?
Sometimes it does happen when I plan to hit a ball to a particular area, which is wrong, and could be a sign of overconfidence as the ball might not actually pitch in that spot you expect it to. But sometimes if I decide to hit a particular ball to three different areas instead of one, in a pre-planned fashion, it does work, but I have got out often when I play premeditated.

You have said in the past that when you walk in, your plan is to stick around for five to six overs before you do anything, but when the bowler starts running in something clicks in your head and you want to belt. How come this sudden change in the mind?
That happens, and one reason is the crowd has expectations from you and wants you to hit fours and sixes. When I am in the dressing-room, I tell myself that I will go and be patient for the initial few overs, but as soon as I cross the boundary ropes and walk in, and I hear the noise and the screams of the fans, it makes me nervous and puts me under pressure, especially in the subcontinent.

You have this restlessness in everything about you. Is that correct?
It is my nature. A Pathan is a hot-blooded creature, who always wants things to be done quickly. Sometimes it does back-fire as the mind doesn't think too much when in a hurry. I am not perfect and I do have my limitations.

The times are such that you don't know who your friend is and who your enemy is. The captain and coach are my backers so that keeps me going © AFP



Talking about expectations, was scoring the fastest ODI hundred a boon or a bane?
Around the time I cracked the fastest ton, I was more of a bowler who batted lower down the order. When I broke the world record I had to change myself into a batsman, and obviously if you haven't done something and you suddenly start doing it, it is different. Wherever I went well-wishers, fans, players were saying that I should continue playing the way I did during the record as it is very nice to see me hitting fours and sixes. And when you hear all that at a young age and it gets into your psyche, it becomes difficult to change that style.


So is it a burden?
When you are not performing, like I haven't of late, the pressure increases. And whenever things are clicking it becomes fun and I don't take any pressure against any opposition or bowler. Yes, at times, I become overconfident and don't give the respect the bowler deserves.









Are you a volatile personality?
Yes, and it is a weak point. If I hear something wrong I just give it back without much thought.

You are no more a fixture on the Pakistan team roster. How do you take sitting out?
I am very hurt. The respect I need to get I don't get: either they take me out completely or keep me in for a while. Even if I am not performing they don't think of retaining me in the squad of 15 so that I can be around practising with the team and help me keep his focus that can help me on my return. Being a senior player it does hurt and sometimes I feel like leaving the game completely and I don't care for anyone. When you are not performing, like I haven't of late, the pressure increases. And whenever things are clicking it becomes fun and I don't take any pressure against any opposition or bowler. Yes, at times, I become overconfident and don't give the respect the bowler deserves
Who are the people in the team who have been able to get the best out of you?
The times are such that you don't know who your friend is and who your enemy is. The captain and coach are my backers so that keeps me going.

Your batting position has never been stable. That must be a problem?
That is the root of the problem. They have never given me a proper batting position and even I don't know on the eve of the game which position I would be batting the next day. If I'm batting as No. 6 and suddenly you ask me to open then I need to face the new ball to get used to it, but that is very difficult to adjust on different wickets. Personally, I would like to open in the subcontinent and bat at No. 6 in other countries.


Which are the batsmen you've enjoyed watching?
I like to watch Sehwag: he can make or break things within moments. [Mahendra Singh] Dhoni's open style of batting is attractive. Then there is [Brian] Lara, [Sachin] Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Gilchirst - players who play in an open way.

Your best moment?
The Test series against India in India in 2004-05 where we came from behind to draw and then to win the one-day series, which was our gift to our President Pervez Musharraf.

And the worst?
Losing the World Cup in 1999 against Australia. We had a very good team, led by Wasim Akram, but to lose in such a one-sided fashion was a miserable feeling which I can never forget.

Casper