A FLAMBOYANT ALL-ROUNDER! SHAHID AFRIDI

Pakistan gave me a name, recognition and identity. I’m lucky to have been born in a country like Pakistan. As far as my contribution to Pakistan is concerned, I haven’t done as much as I should have. I intend to do a lot; I’m doing my best to do whatever I can through my cricket or my foundation (Shahid Afridi Foundation) because all my life the people and this country have given me respect, love and fame. I don’t like to lead a selfish life. It’s easy to just live for one’s own self but if you do something for someone it’s the biggest achievement.

Live: Now that you’ve initiated Hope Not Out, how far do you think you’d go with it and how much have people supported it so far?

Shahid Afridi: I don’t ever plan how far I’d go or want to go. But I sure can tell you what may happen or what I plan to do tomorrow. I try to make plans that I can actually execute properly. I don’t like talking big, and try to stay updated with time. Because God knows better what his plans are for us. So I go with the flow.

We have started an education programme, called ‘Taleem Ho Gi Aam, Har Beti Ke Naam’. There are so many remote areas where girls are not educated; they are admitted to madressahs mostly. So I think education is really important for this country where 80-85% people are illiterate. And the literate ones also act like the illiterate ones. So, it’s a huge responsibility on whether it’s the media or the literate population to set an example by creating a path for those who are unable to get an education.

Live: The media has been very critical of you and about the way you served. Sometimes your hairstyle was criticized and at another time it was deemed really popular. So, how do you see the media’s role?

Shahid Afridi: The media has a positive role as well, but it usually thrives on negative news. The media has supported me as well as criticised me when I haven’t done well. And I have also criticised the media a lot.

Live: Are you satisfied with the performance of the Pakistani cricket team right now?

Shahid Afridi: The problem with Pakistan is the same as it was 70 years ago. I feel a team wins 70-80% of a match owing to the fielding. Because when fielding, you can see all 11 players and the entire team’s performance is visible, their body language, fielding, backing up and supporting each other, motivating each other. That’s the real strength and that’s where we still lack. We’re missing so many balls at such a huge event. Otherwise, bowling and batting are individual. But the field is where everyone is visible and I think we still need to improve our fielding.

Live: When Shahid Afridi entered the field, he came in as Shahid Afridi. From Boom Boom Afridi till now, the impression among people is the same. Why do you think the players of today have to go through a lengthy process to reach a certain level?

Shahid Afridi: There’s no process, in fact it’s become really easy now. You just have to complete one season in domestic cricket and the next year you’re selected in the national team. There’s no competition anymore, which used to be really tough earlier. One had to play first class cricket before getting the Pakistan cricket team cap. Cricket is really easy now. Problem now is that where everything has become easy, and everyone criticises me over this wherever I mention it, I gave an interview to BBC London where I said the Pakistani team does not have the talent it needs. The media criticised me a lot. But now they realise what Shahid said was correct. International cricket has changed a lot. Till we have cricket academies in all major cities, our talent will keep going to waste. If academies are established, children will come to learn and whatever the demands of the game now and whatever the skills are required, they won’t learn at home, they’ll have to go to an academy. We’ll need to teach the skills of the game demanded now. If you want to beat bigger teams such as Australia, India, England, you’ll need to learn those skills.

Live: People like yourself, Wasim Akram, Imran Khan, Waqar Younis haven’t learned from academies; you played in the street and took Pakistan to the level it is at today, which is why your names are among the leading stars of the game. What do you think is lacking today?

Shahid Afridi: Cricket has changed a bit now. A person who doesn’t have the skills cannot at all perform. I’ll give you an example: India doesn’t take Pakistan as seriously as it used to at one point. Now their approach has changed; they now talk about Australia and England, they don’t consider Pakistan anywhere near them. They held the Indian Premier League. Now when their new, young players play international matches for India after IPL, just check out the level of confidence they play cricket with. Their thinking, their approach has changed. You can’t wait for a Wasim Akram and a Waqar Younis to be born again, you’ll have to create such stars now. You’ll have to create your structure again. Money doesn’t increase by depositing it into an account, but rather spending it on a product. When a product is created, it will bring in more money. So, we need to spend on our players.

Live: We’re soon going to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day. What would be your message to the nation on that day?

Shahid Afridi: The significance of 14th August should not be measured through flags and national songs, but by how many sacrifices our forefathers have rendered for the creation of this country. We have a country, but we’re not a nation; we’re divided into ethnicities like Sindhi, Punjabi, Mohajir, Pathan. So, if as a nation our elders could show us the path to progress. We didn’t get the kind of elders who could make us chant for Pakistan; they made us Sindhis and Pathans. We need the right leaders to show us the right way. This country is all that we have. I have travelled world over and I think there’s no country more beautiful and amazing than Pakistan.

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