SHAHID AFRIDI
Illustration- Rajni Kanth

Shahid Afridi scored 8064 runs from 369 innings. Although he scored his runs at a phenomenal strike rate of 117 (the highest in ODI history for a minimum of 60 matches and 2000 runs), a batting average of 23.5 gives an indication of his gross underachievement as a batsman.

Afridi, the bowler picked up 395 wickets in 372 innings at 34.5 apiece conceding 4.6 runs per over. He picked up a wicket approximately every 7.5 overs (bowling strike rate of 44.7).

Was Afridi a better bowler than a batsman? How do we combine his batting and bowling numbers and analyse him as a player? Where does he stand as an all-rounder in Pakistan and world cricket history?

Conventionally, it is almost impossible to answer these questions. This is where Impact Index, through its inherent structure and concept, helps evaluate Afridi’s place in ODI cricket history.

THE ALL-ROUNDER

Shahid Afridi is the third-highest impact player for Pakistan after Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. He ranks above the likes of Abdul Qadir, Javed Miandad, Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq to name a few Pakistani greats.

Imran Khan was the most complete all-rounder for Pakistan in their cricket history – in Tests and ODIs – bowling was his stronger suit but he was high impact as a batsman too. Wasim Akram, on the other hand, was essentially a bowling all-rounder who was a very capable lower-order batsman for Pakistan capable of hitting the lusty blows in the death overs.

This makes Afridi the highest impact batting all-rounder in Pakistan’s ODI history.

He is the sixteenth-highest impact all-rounder in ODI cricket history, above more illustrious names like Richard Hadlee, Chris Cairns, Lance Klusener and Chris Gayle.

But what is Afridi’s legacy as a player?

Afridi had a sense of the occasion and he rose to it. Maybe the big stage suited his impulsive nature and personality and motivated him to bring out the best in him.

No one, except Wasim Akram, in Pakistan’s ODI cricket history affected the result of a series and turned it in his country’s favour as many times as Afridi did.

He produced 11 Series-Defining ( SD ) performances in 398 matches which places him in the fifth position overall, only behind Adam Gilchrist (13), Sanath Jayasuriya (12), Sachin Tendulkar (12) and Akram (11 in 356 matches).

Contrary to popular assumption, he was a very consistent player overall – failing (impact of less than 1 in a match constitutes a failure) in only 107 of the 398 matches he played (failure rate – 27%, making him the ninth-most consistent player in Pakistan’s ODI history).

He was also a consistent big-match player and has the fourth-lowest Matches/ SD ratio for Pakistan (an SD every 35 completed matches) after Wasim Akram (32), Imran Khan (34) and Azhar Mahmood (34.75).

First Final, Carlton and United Series, 1996/97, Sydney: 3-33 in 10 overs and 53 in 54 balls. West Indies 179. Pakistan won by 4 wickets. Afridi got an SD for both his batting and bowling separately, which is a rare occurrence.

Pakistan in India, 2004/05: Two back to back high-impact performances with the series tied at 2-2.
Fifth ODI, Kanpur: 0-33 in 6 overs and 102 in 46 balls. Pakistan won comfortably (chasing India’s 249) by 5 wickets.
Sixth ODI, Delhi: 44 in 23 balls and 2-10 in 4 overs. Pakistan 303. India 144.

England in Pakistan, 2005/06: Two back to back high-impact performances, again, with the series tied at 1-1.
Third ODI, Karachi: 31 in 14 balls and 2-42 in 10 overs. Pakistan 353. England 188.
Fourth ODI, Rawalpindi: 34 in 33 balls (coming in at 118 for 5) and 3-34 in 7 overs. Pakistan 210. England 197.

Afridi gave 3 SD performances in 2005. He was the third-highest impact player in the world (after Andrew Flintoff and Adam Gilchrist; for a minimum of 40 ODIs) for a period of three years – 2003 to 2005.

It is worth noting that out of the 103 high impact performances (impact of 4 and above) Afridi gave in his ODI career, Pakistan won 77 – ie, 75% of these matches – that’s quite something.

THE BATSMAN

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka, KCA Centenary Tournament, Nairobi, 1996: A young 16-year old Pakistani batsman creates history by smashing the fastest century in ODI cricket history off just 37 balls – a record he held for seventeen years.

It was Shahid Afridi’s first innings of his international career. However, Afridi could not live up to the hype created around him and never realized his full potential with the bat.

But here is the surprising fact – he is still the tenth-highest impact batsman for Pakistan in spite of having a high failure rate of 55%. This makes him higher impact than batsmen like Aamer Sohail, Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez amongst others.

There were three clear reasons for this.

Firstly, five of Afridi’s 11 career SDs were primarily due to his efforts with the bat.

Secondly, his ability to score at a rate much faster than the much norm ( Strike Rate Impact ) stood out and added to his overall impact as a batsman. Although, guilty of often gifting his wicket away and not scoring the big runs, he gave Pakistan the impetus, opening the innings or provided a late flourish coming down the order.

In fact, his Strike-Rate Impact is the third-highest in ODI history after Vivian Richards and Glenn Maxwell.

And last but not the least was his sheer longevity in the game. He played 398 matches over a period of 19 years in his ODI career.

THE BOWLER

Afridi is Pakistan’s fourteenth-highest impact bowler with a 48% failure rate.

He has two SDs as a bowler for Pakistan.

His ability to restrict the opposition batsmen stood out throughout his career – he is amongst the ten most restrictive bowlers for Pakistan in their ODI history.

In the second-half of his career, he added another facet to his bowling and consistently showcased a propensity to pick up crucial top/middle order opposition wickets.

First ODI, Guyana, 2013 vs West Indies: 76 in 55 balls and 7-12 in 9 overs
Pakistan were in tatters at 47 for 5 when Afridi joined Misbah-ul-Haq at the crease. He smashed 76 in 55 balls and completely changed the momentum of the match. Pakistan registered 224.
Afridi then ran through the West Indian batting line-up cleaning them for a paltry 98. He picked up 7 wickets in his 9 overs conceding a mere 12 runs.

This performance by Afridi is the second-highest impact performance by any player in a match in ODI cricket history.

His bowling reached its pinnacle during the 2011 World Cup where he emerged as the highest impact bowler (and the third-highest impact player) of the tournament.

A CAREER IN TWO HALVES

Afridi’s career can be literally divided into two halves. Between his debut in 1996 till the end of 2004 (in 188 completed matches), he was a batting all-rounder with 46% higher impact with the bat than with the ball.

In fact, all his 5 Batting SDs came in this period.

His bowling took prime position during the second half of his career (from 1st January, 2005 till 20th March, 2015) and he had a 23% higher impact as a bowler. In fact, it is staggering to note that he has been Pakistan’s second-highest impact bowler (after Saeed Ajmal) during this time period.

Overall, in his career (from October, 1996), Afridi’s impact as a batsman is 7% higher than as a bowler.

Never one to mince words himself, Afridi was one of the most talked-about cricketers of the last two decades. His batting left everyone desiring more but he achieved more than his due with the ball to continuously justify his place in the side.

Combine the two aspects, and it figures why he was Pakistan’s highest impact player in 2001, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2014 and the highest impact player in the world in 2005 (when he produced 3 SDs).

Afridi retired from ODI cricket post the World Cup Down Under in 2015. He was Pakistan’s highest impact player during the last ten years. They will find it difficult to fill his shoes.

 

 

Nikhil Narain

NOTE: Impact Index has undergone an upgradation in November 2015, and though 95% of its findings remain the same, there have been some minor shifts. This piece was updated post that, and is up-to-date as of August 2016.