Search Tatara Football Ground on the internet, you’d find a land that is rough and uneven surrounded by dangerous mountains. This ground has seen it all but the best probably it has seen is Shaheen Afridi’s growth.
This small ground was there for Afridi during his happy and the tough times. This ground saw how he tirelessly trained with his brother early in his career who was a star back then, as he played for Pakistan in a Test match. Of course, it is a big deal. At least for the kids who stayed in a small village. At least for the boy who was just four years old when his brother proudly donned the Green Cap.
Most importantly, This ground has helped the young kid to go from Landi Kotal, a small village to Australia. Though Afridi moved to Peshawar for better training, this ground is where everything has started with his brother after all his first coach.
Everything is surreal for the young kid as he is making heads turn wherever he went. Be it tape ball cricket, Under 16, Under 19 or say the World Cup. Of course, when you are discovered by one of the best players, you got to be talented. Mushtaq Ahmed found his talent when he was playing under 16. Afridi’s fitness, height and his inswingers caught his eyes.
It was then the time for the selectors who loved him. While representing FATA region at the U16 level, he did well get a selection call-up and then he was there in the U16 Team that toured Australia which didn’t go well.
He came back to play another season for FATA and this time he was even better, he elevated himself to the next level, the U19s. He went through the Sri Lankan team and then FATA again.
It really was his first-class debut that spoke a lot about his talent. Playing for Khan Research Laboratory against Rawalpindi, picking up 8 for 39 in 15 overs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan premier domestic tournament. From there on, there is no look back. His fifer in the PSL and his Under 19 World Cup performance helped the kid to become one of the regulars in the national team.
What makes Shaheen Afridi special?
Growing up in Pakistan, it is unnatural not to idolize Akram or Younis for a pacer. He idolizes both. He grew up watching them both. He not only enjoyed their bowling, but he also wanted to be one. He wanted to be a part of history. He wanted to be there not only representing his team but also to be a hero for his team. He wanted to stand out. He loves the attention. He loves to pick wickets. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn’t. It hurts him so much that in the next game he tries harder.
Though he stands six foot six inches tall, he has a baby face and it only gets better when he smiles. He stands tall yet shy and less spoken but the most admirable part of Shaheen is the way he respects his elders. Once he knocked the great Afridi out, and he stopped immediately to celebrate because it was Afridi and he doesn’t want to look awkward before him.
Does he ever get annoyed?
Many times. He would ask people to stop comparing him with Shahid Afridi. He gets irritated when somebody says his action resembles Mitchell Starc. His action is natural he would say. He didn’t copy from others, he would say.
In fact, Afridi has a textbook action and landing yet his height helps him to produce the pace. His new-found inswinging yorkers look unplayable because it is fast. Of course, with years he will be producing them consistently. He has a great cricket knowledge for his age and the maturity he shows on the field is impeccable. The game awareness and the field placements stand out as his best quality.
Sometimes everything goes wrong and he fails. The nervousness kills him but he overcomes it all and wins the wicket. Still, a long way to go in his career but he soon is going to be the babyface assassin. If he gets there, Pakistan will be in a safer hand.