Do Michael Jeh and me have a common hub to our "cricket thought processes" somewhere? The next post after Dhoni that I was (not surprisingly) unable to put up on Pavilion View after Pakistan's T20 triumph last week was (not surprisingly again) on Afridi.
But here is Mr Jeh, blogging on Afridi on Different Strokes and urging the maverick Pak all-rounder to utilise the rest of his cricketing days better. Much like I urged Shoaib to use his post-30 cricket career wisely 3½ years back [on an earlier incarnation of the same forum that Michael now blogs in]. I sincerely hope that Michael's hopes don't get dashed.
My thoughts on Afridi are a little different from Michael's though. When I remember and try to list out cricketers who were born for T20, Shahid is one of 4 people that invariably come to mind. If there are Gods of T20 up there, I believe they would not like Afridi to retire before making a mark on their game. As soon as Afridi held up his bat in victory after the winning shot was made in the 2009 T20 final, I remembered another man who came back many years after writing himself off everyone's minds to win the trophy that destiny surely wanted to be his. It was in another sport.
Goran Ivanevic lost 3 Wimbledon finals in his 20's. Out of sight, out of mind and playing on a wild card, he fought dipping game and advancing age more than his opponents over a fortnight on London grass a few years later and roared into the finals of Wimbledon. That evening he held the emotions of a whole generation of tennis lovers across the world under siege for a few unforgettable hours. He won - and we know he was not the only one in the world who cried at that moment. Empathy and love. That's what you earn when you play your game from your heart and more than make up for the tantrums you throw by overruling umpires at times to rule line calls against yourself.
Great memories are often accompanied by better memories. Goran had an opponent who displayed the essence of sport by throwing in everything he had during the game to try and beat the Child of Destiny, yet showed genuine appreciation of Goran's emotions in his own defeat that meant he would never hold the Wimbledon crown aloft like Goran.
Patrick Rafter, I am your fan forever.
PS: I forgot to name the other 3 guys that were surely born for Twenty20. Shoaib Akhtar, Billy Bowden and Romesh Kaluwitharana. I must have blogged on them sometime, somewhere.
Update 2: The other thought I had - this one similar to Michael - as Afridi played his innings in the T20 World Cup final was: This man repeatedly and unrepentently bats in full length international cricket matches as others would in the last over of a 5-over friendly. He does that in Tests and in 50-over games alike. But here he was 'anchoring a chase' in a Twenty20 by remaining unbeaten till the end! Someone brought the horse to the water 13 years ago - and NOW it is finally drinking!