Pakistan’s white-ball box office leader believes his “unpredictable” nation can recapture the spirit of 2009 and win a second T20 World Cup.
In the competition 12 years ago, Afridi was a man of the match in a nail-biting seven-run semi-final win over South Africa, where he scored 51 runs.
He subsequently excelled in the final at Lord’s, where he hit an unbroken 54 in an eight-wicket thumping of Sri Lanka.
Pakistan’s victory came just three months after a terrorist attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan squad, which resulted in the country’s international cricket being suspended.
“We were thinking about the Sri Lanka attacks,” Afridi told AFP.
“The entire nation had been disappointed and frustrated, so a victory was desperately needed.”
“The victory brought joy to the entire nation and provided some great moments.”
In 1996, Afridi made headlines when he set a new record for the fastest century in ODI cricket, achieving his century in 37 balls.
It was a world record that lasted until 2014.
Afridi, who played 99 T20 Internationals for Pakistan, believes that recent failures would re-energize Babar Azam’s team for the T20 World Cup in 2021.
Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis resigned a month before the mega-event, ostensibly believing that new board chairman Ramiz Raja would fire them anyhow.
Then, only minutes before the first ODI in Rawalpindi, New Zealand called off their tour of the country.
England withdrew its men’s and women’s teams from visiting Pakistan three days later.
“This is Pakistan cricket for you,” Afridi lamented, “never a dull day.”
Afridi was at the core of Pakistan’s “topsy-turvy” trip in limited-overs cricket during his 22-year international career.
Drama and heartbreak
In the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, Afridi anchored Pakistan’s run to the final, taking 12 wickets and earning the player of the tournament award.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has lost thrice to arch-rival India, including in the final.
“In the first T20 World Cup, Pakistan provided the best entertainment,” says Afridi.
“In the group match, we lost to India following a bowl-out, which was a first for us.”
With only six runs needed to win, Pakistan lost the final to Misbah-ul-injudicious Haq’s stroke off the third ball of the final over.
“Misbah got Pakistan into the game, but we lost by the tiniest of margins,” Afridi added.
Pakistan fell in the semi-final of the 2010 tournament in the Caribbean under Afridi, when Michael Hussey smashed 39 runs in the last two overs to give Australia an unexpected victory.
“T20 matches our personality,” Afridi remarked. “We have the talent, approach, and aggression that this fast-paced format requires.
“It’s a format that’s well-liked in Pakistan.” We defeated every team, and subsequently, every team adopted our strategy.
“Bowling has become more diverse, and new batting tactics have emerged.”
Pakistan, according to Afridi, can spring a few shocks in the UAE once more.
“The current Pakistani team has a lot of skill, but they are short inexperience. But, as we all know, a Pakistani team should never be underestimated!”