Shahid Afridi is going to play The Hundred and in a way it is the greatest endurance feat of all time

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Shahid Afridi (by Sarah Ansell)

Shahid Afridi is going to play The Hundred.

Shahid Afridi.

Shahid… Afridi…

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.


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  1. I continue to be baffled by many aspects of the Hundred, not least:

    Is a ‘non-playing player’ really a player?
    Is Liam Dawson really a ‘local icon’?
    Why are some team names/nicknames singular (‘Southern Brave’ and some plural ‘Manchester Originals’?
    Is all this going to entice more potential cricket fans in a way that, say, putting a Lord’s test on the BBC once a year wouldn’t?

  2. I wonder if my not yet being in my 40s and not being not English might be sufficient qualities to override my lack of five test hundreds and an average of 36.51?

  3. Eoin Morgan said:
    “Anybody I speak to who loves sport but doesn’t necessarily love cricket is crying out for a tournament that he or she understands, because 18 teams going for a long period of time just doesn’t make sense to anybody.”

    God knows how the premier league has survived this long then.

    1. “18 teams going for a long period of time”

      County cricket, you mean?

      Yeah, let’s get rid of that so we can have a few new, fairweather, ADHD fans.

    2. This would make more sense if the Hundred actually made sense. But with its weird metricated overs and non-playing players, isn’t it even more incomprehensible to casual sports fans? The Blast at least played a game recognisable to the rules you might have seen at school and league stage, semis, finals was a completely logical progression.

      1. You’re showing your age (or possibly class) by talking about cricket as a sport played at school. Not sure there’s much of that any more.

      2. Age rather than class I think. But I also think you’re wrong to imagine no cricket gets played whatsoever – aside from knockabout playground tennis ball stuff which was my main source of it, a lot of schools (primary and lower secondary) run a couple of hours of PE classes of what’s basically a “taster” course. You know, plastic stumps, not a hard ball, learn three shots and the basic mechanics of bowling a ball – underarm if needed. Not necessarily that the school has a proper pitch and a representative team in inter-school competition. Just a taster, and the only chance most kids get to be exposed to the game (presumably more so now that they get brought up without telly coverage). Even there though the basic idea of the bowler bowls six balls and there’s a change of bowler/ends (possibly with batsmen having to cross rather than the field switching round, for time and space reasons) is one of the takeaways most people are going to get so I’m not sure why you want to mess with it really.

        (Cricket statto types are also going to have a minor nightmare classifying it and relating it to existing data. When you’ve got format gimmick creep then things like “all time records” become incomparable or less interesting. “Six sixes in an over” anyone? Isn’t that one of the basic points of comparison for outstanding batting performance in popular cricket folklore? The Hundred just feels a bit Cricket Maxy to me.)

  4. KC has written a very interesting article, “Why can’t they just dig in?” the perils of blocking, in the Autumn edition of Wisden’s cricket quaterly, Nightwatchman. As well as his own various insights, he draws on many sources which results in a great read. The Nightwatchman is one of your actual bound books, with pages that you can turn over and everything. It’s the nearest I get to the boyhood delight of waiting for Battle or 2000AD.

      1. They occasionally publish edited highlights on the Wisden site months later, but can’t imagine our piece will get the treatment as it’s quite unwieldy and not very clickbaity.

  5. Speaking of early announcements, why do international Test teams still announce their XI 1-2 days before the game?

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