Former Pakistan cricketer Azhar Mahmood recently revealed the story of how the former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi, who joined the national team as the replacement of the injured leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, impressed as a top-order aggressive batsman in his very first ODI innings.
Shahid Afridi made his international debut during the quadrangular ODI tournament in the KCA Centenary Tournament 1996/97 in Kenya. While Afridi didn’t bat on his ODI debut, which was the match against the hosts Kenya at Nairobi (Gym) on 2nd October 1996, he was sent to bat at the third position in the next ODI (against Sri Lanka at Nairobi, Gym on 4th October 1996) as a pinch-hitter.
Before his first ODI innings, Afridi impressed everyone with his aggressive batting against the spinner in the nets.
Afridi’s former national teammate Azhar Mahmood, who made his international debut less than a month ago of Afridi’s ODI debut, said on ‘The Greatest Rivalry’ podcast, “Shahid Afridi had debuted in Nairobi in 1996 after the Sahara Cup, where I made my debut. So Mushi [Mushtaq Ahmed] got injured in that series and Shahid Afridi was touring with the Pakistan A team to West Indies and he replaced Mushi in that tournament.
“In those days, the two Sri Lankan openers, Jayasuriya and wicketkeeper Kaluwitharana used to attack upfront. So, we thought we need someone who can bat at No.3. Afridi and I – Wasim said you guys go and try to slog [in the nets]. I was slogging sensibly and Afridi went against the spinners, murdering everyone in the nets.”
Shahid Afridi used the great Sachin’s bat and managed to get a hundred: Azhar Mahmood
While Afridi was selected for the no.3 batting position in that match against Sri Lanka, Pakistan pacer Waqar Younis gave him one Sachin Tendulkar‘s bat. In that very first ODI innings, Afridi created the record of fastest ODI century by completing that in just 37 balls. The right-handed batsman finally scored 102 runs off just 40 balls (6 fours and 11 fours) in that match.
Mahmood continued, “Next day, we got the game against Sri Lanka and they said he [Afridi] is batting at number three. I think Waqar [Younis] got a bat from Sachin [Tendulkar], he used the great Sachin’s bat and managed to get a hundred and after that, he became a batsman. Mainly he was a bowler who can hit the ball, but in the end, he had a wonderful career.”
Afridi played international cricket till 2018 as he played in 27 Tests, 398 ODIs and 99 T20Is.
Talking about Afridi’s great international career, Mahmood specially mentioned about his performances in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, where he led the Pakistan team to reach the semi-final and finished as the joint-most wicket-taker (21 wickets) in that tournament.
Mahmood added, “Especially that World Cup, 2011, he led the side very well, he was in the best of his form, he was bowling really well. He learned a delivery from the great Abdul Qadir – the ball that drifts in and hits your pads. So that was a great World Cup [for him] and he was batting great as well. Overall, it was a great World Cup for Pakistan, unfortunately, we lost to India but Shahid Afridi was a great asset for Pakistan.”