Because the Twenty20 World Cup is Shahid Afridi’s, surely.
Against Scotland yesterday, he hit 22 off seven balls, which is actually useful in Twenty20 cricket and then took 4-19, which is useful in any form of cricket.
We originally thought that Twenty20 cricket wouldn’t show Afridi in his best light. Indeed we still do. The whole point of Shahid Afridi – and he might disagree with us on this – is that he plays in that ludicrous manner whatever the form of the game and whatever the match situation.
In Twenty20, with everyone else playing the same way, Shahid Afridi’s essential Shahid Afridiness is diluted. In Test cricket he stands alone. In Twenty20 he’s less of a one-off.
On the other hand, who in world cricket has had more practice playing this way than Shahid Afridi? No-one. Because Shahid Afridi’s been using Test cricket and conventional one-day internationals as net practice for the last ten years.
We’re backing Pakistan (as well as England) in this tournament. Why? Because of their consistency and reliability, that’s why. No, it’s actually because we think the Pakistanis have grown up with this kind of cricket and might therefore have a slight advantage.
Shahid Afridi comes from the great Pakistani tape ball tradition, where you try and slog a tennis ball, which has been semi-taped for added weight and potential swing, for as many runs as possible in as short a time as possible and the only way to stop a batsman is to get him out. Perfect preparation for Twenty20 cricket.