Shaheen Shah Afridi: A spell that changed Pakistan's fate

Written By: Abhishek Kumar WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Oct 25, 2021, 11:04 PM(IST)

Shaheen Afridi was Pakistan's hero against India. Photograph:( AFP )

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Shaheen Afridi won't forget his stunning spell against India in the years to come as he basks in the glory of Pakistan's first taste of victory against their arch-rivals in a World Cup clash.

A packed Stadium at the peak of its voice, a dramatic build-up to what has rightfully earned the tag of 'mother of all clashes'. The excitement level has sky-rocketed and the hype around the game is surreal, to say the least. It's India vs Pakistan. Dubai is ready as another hero awaits his fair share of glory.

It is not a secret that the contests between the arch-rivals have produced some of the cult heroes for both India and Pakistan, over the years. There is nothing better you could possibly ask for, as a player, if you can steal the thunder in an India-Pakistan game. Not many have had the privilege to experience that feeling but a certain 21-year-old did on Sunday.

Dubai awaited a hero as did Pakistan, and Shaheen Shah Afridi stepped up to bowl the spell of his career as he tormented India in a matter of just two deliveries. Two deliveries were all it took for the tall and lanky left-arm pacer to completely shift the momentum in Pakistan's favour as the Men in Green sensed an unforeseeable victory.

There is nothing like an India-Pakistan game when it comes to cricket. The sheer hype surrounding the game and the pressure of expectations of billions back home can often get the better of even the toughest of characters in either of the dressing rooms.

But Shaheen Afridi had not even the slightest of signs of jitteriness as he took the ball for the opening over of what was going to be the start of a stunning spell. Three balls later, he was up against Rohit Sharma, someone who can single-handedly destroy bowling attacks on his day and can be unstoppable if he gets going.

Afridi produced a sensational yorker first up against Rohit, pitched right on the middle stump line, the in-swinger trapped the Hitman plumb. Bowled at over 140 kmph, with a perfect seam position, the ball beat Rohit's flick and crashed into his back pad. Rohit was dismissed on a duck and Afridi continued his magnificent run of surprising openers with magical deliveries in the first over.

 

Afridi is one of the toughest bowlers to face in the first over of a T20 game. That's not a mere claim but a fact proven by stats since his T20 debut in February 2018. The left-arm fast bowler has picked up 22 wickets in 62 innings in the first over of a T20 game.

Rohit getting beaten comprehensively in the first over might have come as a surprise to many, but not to those who have followed Afridi's first-over exploits in T20s over the last few years. He is just too good for even the best of openers in the world and the odds are against the batter when it comes to his first six deliveries in a T20 game.

Afridi was off to a dream start and so were Pakistan. What better could they have asked for than getting Rohit on a duck in the very first over. But it was far from over as Afridi returned to pile more misery on India in his second over. If the ball to Rohit was brilliant, the one to get Rahul was nothing less than an extraordinary delivery.

Afridi nailed an unplayable inswinger on the very first delivery of his second over to bamboozle an in-form Rahul, who was coming off a formidable campaign in IPL 2021. Rahul tried to play it across the line and was beaten thoroughly by the peach which crashed onto his stumps to send him packing for just 3 runs off 8 balls.

With those two deliveries, Afridi, playing his first T20 World Cup for Pakistan, announced his arrival against their most coveted opponent India in some style. In what looked like a repeat of Manchester 2019, a left-hand pacer once again wreaked havoc against the top-order and broke the back of the Indian batting line-up in a crunch game.

Afridi set the tone for Pakistan and the rest of the bowlers did well to capitalise on the fabulous start as India could only go up to 151/7 in 20 overs with the help of captain Virat Kohli's patient 57 off 49 balls and Rishabh Pant's 39 off 30 deliveries. 

Afridi later returned to finish his spell with the special wicket of Kohli, sending him back in the 19th over to ensure there was no coming back for India in the game. To make it more special, the 21-year-old became the first Pakistan bowler to dismiss the Indian captain in the T20 World Cup. Afridi had done the damage in his very first over and the repercussions were felt throughout the game as India lost the plot with the ball after a terrible show with the bat.

On a night when Afridi made the Indian batsmen dance to his tunes, none of the Indian bowlers managed to pick even a single wicket as Pakistan had a cakewalk in the run-chase. An unbeaten stand of 152 runs from Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan sealed Pakistan's first-ever victory against India in a World Cup match with 13 balls to spare.

It was Afridi's magical spell that helped change Pakistan's fate at the biggest stages of them all in world cricket, helping them end a curse that had eluded them a World Cup victory against India. The Men in Green had not tasted victory against their old foes in a cricket World Cup before Sunday. But the 12-0 (7 wins in seven matches in ODI World Cup, 5 wins in five matches in T20 World Cup) streak was buried in Dubai as Pakistan won, and won comprehensively by ten wickets.

21-year-old Afridi won't forget his memorable spell against India in the years to come as he basks in the glory of his success against Kohli's men. Nor will Pakistan let him forget the spell that is one for the ages, and set up their most cherished win against India so far in the history of what has been one of the greatest rivalries on the 22 yards.

Not that Pakistan have not earned special victories against India before but to beat them in a World Cup was a dream which remained unfulfilled for several yesteryear greats, who are now rejoicing the heroics of this young Pakistan side led by a young captain, on a mission to rewrite history.

For Afridi, it is only the start of what can be a campaign to remember if he can continue surprising his opponents with his impeccable skills, finesse and pace. A naturally gifted fast bowler with an orthodox yet tricky release, he has a long way to go if he can maintain his fitness levels and let the fire in his belly burn in the matches to come.

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)

Abhishek Kumar

He will probably be busy watching cricket/football if not churning out pieces on sports and its heroes. A Manchester United fan.

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