Shahid Afridi is going to play The Hundred.
There is something truly remarkable in the fact that a man whose career was essentially one great self-sabotaging odyssey is still playing high level cricket at the age of (at least) 44.
A quick recap for our younger readers and also for our older ones whose memories aren’t what they used to be. Back in the era when sixes were just sixes, not maximums, and when scoring at a run-a-ball was still ‘a thing,’ Shahid Afridi pursued 30-ball fifties with total commitment and zero common sense.
A 30-ball fifty is a commonplace thing now, but Afridi’s quite stellar mindlessness can only be fully appreciated against the more serene backdrop of that earlier time.
Regardless of format, Afridi approached his batting like a four-year-old and what was so wonderful about him was that sometimes it worked.
Because occasionally it did.
Afridi made five Test hundreds and averaged 36.51. Look at those numbers. He would walk into the current England team. (Except for two things. One, he’s now in his mid-forties, and two, he’s not English).
The mere possibility Afridi might succeed with the bat breathed life into a great many otherwise very boring games.
Writing for All Out Cricket, back when that magazine existed, we explained his impact thus:
“Picture it as a Butch and Sundance type situation where the remaining batsmen are holed up in some shed, surrounded by foes. They take inventory of their weaponry and find they have two pistols, a shotgun and not all that much ammunition.
“At this point, Shahid Afridi reveals that he has his own private airforce, but isn’t quite sure whether anyone’ll be manning the phones today when he tries to get hold of them. The drama will probably play out as we expect, but Afridi’s revelation does introduce a note of uncertainty to the narrative.”
People used to say that Afridi was perfect for Twenty20 and now they’ll say that he’s perfect for The Hundred. But really it’s the opposite.
In the shortest formats, Afridi is just one of many. When everyone else is forced by circumstance to bat like they don’t give a toss, it obscures his genius.
The genius of Shahid Afridi is that if he had 50 overs to make 30 runs and his own life hinged on the outcome, he’d still try and get there in five shots.