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Thankful for my time as Pakistan Captain: Afridi

Veteran Pakistan all-rounder reflects on his two-decade-long journey, and looks ahead to continuing as a professional cricketer

Shahid Afridi’s international career has been a rollercoaster ride. Known for his aggressive batting style and wicket-taking abilities, Afridi has scored 1,716 runs and taken 48 wickets in 27 Tests. Making his One-Day International debut in 1996, Afridi amassed 8,046 runs and took 395 wickets in 398 games.  
He holds a record of taking most Twenty20 Internationals wickets (97) and has won the most Player of the Match awards (six) in the format.
Afridi, who announced his ODI retirement after Pakistan’s quarter-final loss in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, continues to play the shortest format.
“The journey has been very long,” said Afridi about his two-decade long career in an interview with Rameez Raja for ICC Cricket 360°. “Playing for Pakistan and alongside great players like you is like a dream come true. It was a big opportunity when I came into international cricket, I was bit nervous of playing with such big stars, but the way the senior players took care of me, like a younger brother, it was very important for me.
“Never imagined that I would play for Pakistan for so long, but I am, and I achieved quite a lot and played fearless cricket. Although I didn't perform on some occasions, but whatever I achieved for my country, I would be thankful for the love and support I got.”

Afridi was the all-round star of Pakistan's ICC World Twenty20 2009 title run and has led from the front as captain in the past. But, despite that, he had to deal with criticism from former players, media and even fans at home.
Recently, he stepped down as Pakistan’s T20I captain after the team crashed out of the ICC World Twenty20 2016 following losses in the group phase to India, New Zealand and Australia to finish fourth out of five teams in Group 2, its only win coming against Bangladesh.
“Following the Pakistan media, accepting the challenges and captaining the national side, it's not like a walk in the park,” said Afridi. “Even before the ICC World Twenty20 2016, I was thinking that I wasn't enjoying captaincy and it was putting pressure on me. But then I also thought that, if I leave captaincy at this crucial juncture, I don't see any other player who can handle this responsibility. And I thought, I'll build a strong team but we didn’t perform to the expectations of our fans.”

Looking back at his career, Afridi said that facing some of the world’s best bowlers in Australia on the 2004-05 tour was one of the highlights. His 141 against India in the Chennai Test in 1999 also remained a memorable innings.
“In 2004-05 tour, we toured Australia and it was a dream to face bowlers like Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, and to score against them was really satisfying,” he recalled. “And then 141 against India in a Test match and I scored a century in Kanpur in an important match, so those innings are memorable.”
When asked about the emerging talent pool in the country, Afridi said the Pakistan Super League was a great platform for youngsters keen to make a foray into the national side.

“The first Pakistan Super League was a great boost for Pakistan cricketers financially, and in terms of exposure as well,” said Afridi. “The talent is definitely there but we have to search and that will happen from academies. So proper we need to build proper academies in each city and the talented kids can use the facilities. Right now, the boys only learn once they get selected into the national team. For example, proper training, diving skills, etc. All these things you learn at U16 and U19 level in the academies.”
Afridi, now 36, said he was looking forward to playing as professional in the foreseeable future and wanted to set up his cricket academy as well. “I will continue to play cricket for my leagues,” he said. “I’ve signed with Hampshire county and will play that as well. PSL is also happening, and apart from that if I get any good opportunity I will take it. Also I would like to carry on with my charity work for my Shahid Afridi foundation and have an ambition to set up a proper academy.”

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