There are sultans of swing, magicians of spin and destructive batsmen who call cricket their game and then there is Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi, the one we know as Shahid Afridi and the one his team-mates call 'Lala'. Afridi can easily be considered as Pakistan's most attention-drawing cricketers right from the time his career got underway.
In his very first innings in ODI cricket, Afridi broke Sanath Jayasuriya's record, scoring the then fastest ODI century off just 37 balls. The feat's shocking nature was underlined by his inclusion as a leg-spinner replacing the injured Mushtaq Ahmed, with only a penchant for fearless pinch-hitting. It was enough batting prowess for him to feature one-down in a Pakistani middle order comprising of stalwarts and experienced players like Ramiz Raja, Ejaz Ahmed and Saleem Malik. He was merely a 16-year old lad and that performance quickly shifted focus from his bowling to willow-accompanying wonders. Soon, he was regarded as a batsman used as a part-time bowler. The change of roles had a reverse effect, forcing Afridi to earn his spot in a specialization he wasn't completely acquainted with.
He made his Test debut in 1998, taking a five-for in Karachi against Australia. As his career progressed, priorities again reshuffled and with the retirement of spin duo Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed by 2004, Afridi and Danish Kaneria became the first-choice spinners. While a limited-overs regular, he remained in and out of Test reckoning. In 2006, he announced his Test retirement opting to focus on ODIs, but came out of it within months. As T20 ushered a limited-overs revolution, Afridi soon became the format's best player internationally, with an appearance in the final of the inaugural edition in 2007 and a win in the subsequent edition, in 2009, as captain, when he scored an unbeaten 54 to take Pakistan to the title. In 2010, he was appointed as captain of Pakistan in all three formats. He successfully led Pakistan to a World Twenty20 semi-final berth. After facing defeat in his first Test as captain, against Australia, Afridi soon proclaimed his re-retirement from Tests.
Afridi was removed as Pakistan's captain on 19th May, 2011, after hinting at disharmony within the team management. Ten days after being sacked as the one-day captain, he announced his retirement from international cricket, only to take it back a few months later. Afridi's dramatics on and off the field earned him both friends and foes in the Pakistani cricketing circles. Afridi soon turned into the king of comebacks, proving each time that he was far from reaching the twilight of his career.
Failure in the 2014-15 season saw Shahid Afridi announce his retirement again from all forms of cricket post the 2015 ICC World Cup. Whatever way Afridi chooses to leave cricket, he will remain an enigmatic figure among fans and followers of cricket around the world.
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