I played fearless cricket: Shahid Afridi

Islamabad, May 3: Shahid Afridi, the former Pakistan cricket ODI captain, who retired from the 50-over format but continues to play the shortest format of the game, said in a recent interview that he played a fearless brand of cricket.

Speaking to former Pakistan player Ramiz Raza on behalf of ICC Cricket 360, Afridi said that he enjoyed his stint thoroughly and thanked his fans for being there always.

“The journey has been very long,” the Pak talisman said.

“Playing for Pakistan and alongside great players like you is like a dream come true. It was a big opportunity when I came into international cricket, I was bit nervous of playing with such big stars, but the way the senior players took care of me, like a younger brother, it was very important for me,” Afridi told Raza.

Though he played for 20 years, the dashing batsman played just the 27 Tests, picking up 48 wickets and scoring 1,716 runs.

Afridi, also known as Boom Boom said, “Never imagined that I would play for Pakistan for so long, but I am, and I achieved quite a lot and played fearless cricket. Although I didn’t perform on some occasions, but whatever I achieved for my country, I would be thankful for the love and support I got.”

His ODI record speaks volumes of his talent though. A regular in the side till his retirement, Afridi was known for his ability to clear the ropes with ease, while churning fast spinning deliveries that kept the batsmen gasping for breathe.

Speaking about his captaincy, the player said it wasn’t easy for him as he had to deal with constant criticism from former players.

“Following the Pakistan media, accepting the challenges and captaining the national side, it’s not like a walk in the park,” he said, while adding, “Even before the ICC World Twenty20 2016, I was thinking that I wasn’t enjoying captaincy and it was putting pressure on me. But then I also thought that, if I leave captaincy at this crucial juncture, I don’t see any other player who can handle this responsibility. And I thought, I’ll build a strong team but we didn’t perform to the expectations of our fans.”

The man is the leading wicket taker in the International T20 arena with 97 scalps and tops the list with most player of the match award (6).

He has amassed 8,046 runs and had taken 395 ODI wickets.

Speaking about the water-shed moment in his career, the dasher recalled his encounter against Australian in the 2004-05 tour and the one against arch-rivals India in Kanpur.

“In 2004-05 tour, we toured Australia and it was a dream to face bowlers like Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, and to score against them was really satisfying,” he said.

“And then 141 against India in a Test match and I scored a century in Kanpur in an important match, so those innings are memorable,” Afridi added.

Afridi also gushed about the recently introduced Pakistan Super League, the domestic T20 championship in Pakistan and spoke about the emerging talents.

“The first Pakistan Super League was a great boost for Pakistan cricketers financially, and in terms of exposure as well. The talent is definitely there but we have to search and that will happen from academies. So proper we need to build proper academies in each city and the talented kids can use the facilities. Right now, the boys only learn once they get selected into the national team. For example, proper training, diving skills, etc. All these things you learn at U16 and U19 level in the academies.”

Though retired from International cricket, Afridi said he will continue to play professional cricket and is looking to open his own academy.

“I will continue to play cricket for my leagues. I’ve signed with Hampshire county and will play that as well. PSL is also happening, and apart from that if I get any good opportunity I will take it. Also I would like to carry on with my charity work for my Shahid Afridi foundation and have an ambition to set up a proper academy,” he said.