Of Shahid Afridi it can safely be said that cricket never has and never will see another like him. To say he is an allrounder is to say Albert Einstein was a scientist; it tells a criminally bare story.
For a start, the slant of his all-round skills only became clear ten years into his career; he is a leg-spinning allrounder. Variety is his calling and as well as a traditional leg-break, he has two googlies, a conventional offie and a lethal faster one, though this is increasingly rare. All come with the threat of considerable, late drift. He fairly hustles through overs, which in limited-over formats is a weapon in itself and the package is dangerous.
But forever associated with him will be his madcap batting, the prospect of which is a crowd-puller the world over. He is a compulsive basher, literally unable to control his urges to slog every ball that comes his way, and not much of it is classical. Often spectacular results are at hand; he owns, for example, two of the fastest ODI hundreds, including the fastest one ever in his first innings ever at the age of 16. His career strike rates are nearly unmatched. But mostly, anywhere in the order, consistency has been missing.
Despite a healthy Test career, he gave up on the format in 2006, pre-empting men such as Andrew Flintoff, to maximise fully a limited-overs career. He came back, in inimitable fashion, for one Test only, as captain no less in 2010. A loss and two slogs meant he re-retired immediately after. Twenty20 is something he could’ve been made for and he is among the most lethal players of the format, having been player of the tournament for the inaugural edition of the World Twenty20 in 2007 and led Pakistan to the title two years later with matchwinning all-round hands in the semi and final.
Maturity has often threatened to gatecrash his career and leadership was a just reward, though it was taken away from him in 2011 after an immature spat; another retirement was announced but none of it will change much a truly unique career.
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