Shahid Afridi’s ageless talent | Sunday Observer

Shahid Afridi’s ageless talent

When Pakistan cricketer SHAHID AFRIDI hit a 37-ball century against Sri Lanka which was accepted as the fastest ever in Kenya in a triangular tournament which also featured South Africa, the cricket world was astounded because he was said to be only 16.

The tour to Kenya was the first the Sri Lankans were making after winning the 1996 World Cup and the writer was the only Sri Lankan journalist covering that tour for the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Sunday Observer’.

That batting blast by AFRIDI was unbelievable for one who was said to be 16. Watching the manner in which AFRIDI was taking apart the Sri Lankan attack, I remarked to the Pakistani journalist seated next to me whose name I don’t remember, that AFRIDI by any stretch of imagination cannot be 16, but as for me he should be over 18.

I said this because the manner in which he was spraying the ball with the tremendous power, was not possible by a 16 year old. It was good, hard clean hitting that had even the South African cricketers stupefied.

But that journalist confirmed that AFRIDI was 16. Due to an injury suffered by one of the Pakistan players, AFRIDI received a call up from the West Indies where he was with the under 19 team.

With one practice session, the next day he walked out and took the Sri Lankan attack by the scruff of its neck and wrung to all parts of the field and over it with utter contempt and arrogance. That innings by a 16 year old was too good to be true and this writer was transfixed as if in wonderland.

And now in his autobiography AFRIDI has debunked that he was 16 as claimed, but admits that he was 19. But what is inexplicable is that he continued carrying the under 16 tag for so long and not having the guts to own up and give his actual age.

In his new autobiography, the fiery all rounder admits he was aged 19 when he blasted onto the world stage with his record breaking innings and not 16 as history suggests.

Let’s read AFRIDI: ‘For the record, I was just nineteen and not sixteen like they claim; he writes in his autobiography ‘GAME CHANGER’ that was released recently.

‘I was born in 1975 so, yes, the authorities stated my age incorrectly.’ That means that when he struck that blistering century he should have been 20 or 21 years of age.

So will those who matter have the guts to erase his records? It will be interesting to watch. But AFRIDI in not coming clean earlier, but by waiting for so long can be tagged, nothing but a cheat.

SA pacies in worry zone

South Africa who have yet to win the World Cup and who will be giving it their best shot this time round under Du Plessis, are in the worry zone with injuries to their pace spearheads Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada.

Steyn skipped the IPL early after a shoulder injury troubled him again. Rabada has been troubled by stiffness in his lower back. He had earlier suffered a stress fracture last year.

But the South African camp is confident that Steyn and Rabada will be back to full fitness come World Cup starting time and be in the front-line to fire their pace missiles on opposing batsmen and win for their country the World Cup for the first time.

South Africa will front up to the formidable England who are also challenging strongly for the World Cup that has eluded them since its inception in the first match at the Oval on May 30.

Defending World Cup champions Australia who are challenging strongly to retain the World Cup will be sans medium pacer Jhye Richrdson suffering a shoulder injury. He will be replaced by namesake Kane Richardson.

Seymour Nurse no more

It is sad to note the passing away of that graceful and elegant right hand West Indian batsman Seymour McDonald Nurse at the age of 85.

Nurse first made his appearance with that great West Indian team that was captained by the mercurial, elegant all-rounder par excellence Sir Frank Worrell on that memorable and epoch making tour to Australia in 1960/1961.

Test cricket was beginning to lose its appeal with spectators deserting venues because there was drab cricket being played and drawn games being the rule rather than the exception.

It was that tour that Sir Frank Worrell and arguably the best captain, Australia produced Richie Benaud the great leg spinning all rounder who made Test cricket come alive and worth watching by playing attacking cricket and winning or losing did not matter to them.

They lit the fire by playing out the first ever tied Test match in the history of the game at the Brisbane Cricket ground which is even now spoken about with awe. That series also showcased the greatest all rounder that the world was to see four-in-one Garfield Sobers.

Although not leaving his mark on that tour Nurse gave glimpses of what could be expected of him in the future by making good scores in the friendly games played.

On the way back home, he was one of the players who broke journey to play a game at the Colombo Oval in 1961 in a game that among others saw the pace ‘terrorist’ Wesly Hall, Rohan Kanhai and Garfield Sobers.

Didn’t a full house of spectators lap up the brilliance of the three players mentioned who they were seeing for the first time. Nurse too played in that game but did not make a big score.

Incidentally it must be mentioned that that game was a Combined X1 versus the Daily Mirror X1 organized by the Chairman, Managing Director and Editor of the then Times Group Felix Goonewardene an illustrious Old Benedictine under whose Editorship I was fortunate to kick start my journalist career.

May the turf lie softly on SEYMOUR McCDONALD NURSE.

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