The left-armer took the best figures by a Pakistani on first-class debut.
With the rise in popularity of Twenty20 leagues around the world, and some players even choosing to play for franchises over their national sides, Pakistani fast bowler Shaheen Afridi, who will represent Pakistan at the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup 2018, is at once a maverick and a throwback – aged just 17 years old, he’s already being courted by the likes of the Bangladesh Premier League, but he’s also chosen to put his international career first.
“I got a contract for the BPL and for the T10 league too but I didn’t go because I was attending the camp for preparing for the Under 19 World Cup,” Afridi said. “I was sad to not, but it’s my national duty. Next year hopefully inshallah I’m free and will be going.”
Remarkably, he signed for the Dhaka Dynamites before making his first-class debut, a sign of the esteem within which he is held. And if the Bangladesh Premier League side were in any doubt about their new recruit, his maiden appearance in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy would surely have put them to rest – the left-armer took 8-39 in the second innings, breaking the record for the best figures by a Pakistani bowler on first-class debut.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he said of his pre-match emotions. “The senior men supporting me said just show your natural bowling and class. In the first innings I got one wicket, and then in the second I got eight! In the second innings I was really relaxed and in a good positive frame of mind.”
Shaheen is no relation to Shahid, who also had a spectacular start to his career, smashing the fastest international hundred in his first ODI innings as a 16-year-old, but does have a cricketing relative in brother Riaz who played a solitary Test in 2004. He was also the leading wicket taker in Pakistan’s successful 2004 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup campaign, providing a fine example for Shaheen to follow.
Still, as a Pakistan fast bowler whose main weapon is in-swing, it’s no surprise who his hero is. “I bowl like Wasim Akram,” he said. “When I was starting the game, I was watching Wasim on video and taking tips. He’s a legend bowler for Pakistan.”
Wasim’s first-class debut, against a New Zealand XI, was also notable; he took 7-50, including the wickets of John Reid and Lance Cairns. This tournament is a chance for Shaheen Afridi to show that there might be many more similarities to come.
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