Debut in a cricketer’s life that is probably the most important day in one’s career. The excitement to represent their country for the first time, to get a big stage to perform, to play with the ones whom they have only dreamt of playing with, the tension of how they will perform- all emotions start to flow in unison. Also, it is like a deciding examination that determines whether or not the player has the capability to honor his country’s colours and make his permanent place in the team. For a cricketer, it is a dream to score a milestone such as to score a century or a half, or to take wickets is a dream. But creating a world record on the debut ODI? That must be beyond one’s wildest of dreams.
Shahid Afridi, probably the most impactful player of his country in our era, made his ODI debut on the 2nd of October 1996. It was the KCA Centenary Tournament going on in Kenya and in that match, Pakistan were up against the home side. On the day, Afridi did not do much with the ball and as far as batting was concerned, he did not even come out to bat. But in the next match, the Pakistan cricketers were to face the Sri Lankans, a team that were the current World Cup winners at that time. It was a crucial match and a decider for who would be facing South Africans in the finals. Winning the toss at Nairobi (Aga), the Lankan skipper asked the Pakistan side to bat first. Saeed Anwar and Saleem Elahi opened the innings as usual, but the came the surprise as Afridi came out to bat following Elahi’s dismissal.
Coming in at number three, Mr. ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi made his batting debut and how! The 16-year-old cricketer took only 18 balls to reach his half-century, and then the next half of the century came in 19 balls, making it a world record of 37 balls century of that time. To add more salt to the wound, the debutant touched the record of Sanath Jayasuriya hitting the most number of sixes in an ODI back then. The innings had 11 sixes and six fours in total and standing in the field, Jayasuriya could do nothing but appreciate the young talent.
But how is Sachin Tendulkar related to this? Well, the bat with which Afridi had created the history belonged to the master blaster. Tendulkar had given his bat to Waqar Younis who, during the nets, gave it to young Afridi.
In an interview to Gulfnews.com, Afridi was quoted saying,”I had just got into the Pakistan team and during nets in Nairobi Wicky Bhai [Waqar Younis] gave me a bat and said, play with this and see. It is Sachin’s bat. I tried it out it; it felt good and played with it in my first ever one-dayer. I scored that innings of 100 in 37 balls with the same bat.”
The record stood unbroken for 17 long years till it got bettered by Correy Anderson of New Zealand in the year 2014.
The day that saw a future maestro unknowingly had also seen the player take one of his many wickets and become the man of the match. 4th October 1996 was the first time when Afridi contributed massively to take his team to the finals of the series as he did many times after that.
Here are the highlights from the iconic innings:
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