Shaheen Shah Afridi was never going to be anything other than a fast bowler. Being a cricketing superstar is in the Afridi blood. The youngest of seven brothers, Shaheen’s six elder siblings were all fast bowlers. They wanted to emulate Imran and Waqar, Wasim and Akhtar. As younger siblings do, Shaheen saw what his brothers were up to and wanted some of the action. As soon as he was able to, he joined in with the Afridi family tape-ball games. They were fiercely competitive. “Always,” Shaheen smiles. “You know brothers. And they were all quicker than me back then too.”
I really wanted to bowl fast and quick, always- Afridi
Speed is something Shaheen references a lot in conversation. He has always wanted to bowl quick, following the footsteps of legendary Pakistani fast bowling. “Legends like Waqar bhai, Wasim bhai, Shoaib Akhtar. I watched all these guys and I really wanted to bowl fast and quick.” He smiles at the thought. Batsmen don’t often smile when they face him. “Batsmen want medium pace and always feeling great instead of someone who bowls quick, 145-plus. I want to bowl faster.”
Speed is not everything of course and the 21-year-old can move the ball too. His natural action takes the ball away from the right-hander but he says he developed the ball coming back in with the help of former national players Azhar Mahmood and Waqar Younis. Because it is not natural, it is something he has to keep working at. “I work a lot on my wrist position,” he says. “I always try and bowl the inswing angle during training and keep my wrist locked every time. The same with seam.”
Reverse swing makes Afridi even more lethal
Reverse swing is a part of his numerous skills, too. His five-wicket haul in the second Test against Zimbabwe in May 2021 was the result of this particular skill. “When the ball is reversing, and there are two set batsmen at the crease, you should bowl quicker,” he says. “If the ball is reversing, it is a chance to attack the stumps and take wickets. You have to go for it. Against Zimbabwe, I bowled fast and went for the stumps.” In the first Test, Shaheen picked up his 50th Test wicket in just his 16th match, equalling Akram’s record.
Afridi reveals his bowling tactics
Talking about his bowling strategy, the young lad revealed, “To be honest, I just work on the in-swinging yorker. It’s not my aim to bowl in and out. I just want to bowl it full and hit the toe. Maybe sometimes the batsmen know I want to try and bowl the yorker but a yorker is a good ball early on when a batsman is not set.
You can take advantage early on. But you have to put in extra effort. You can’t bowl a 130kph yorker. You need some pace because batsmen have some big bats and they can smash you. So you must try and bowl the yorker quick.”
I really enjoy Test Cricket- Afridi
Sharing his thoughts on Test Cricket, Afridi concluded,”Test cricket is proper cricket for me. I am really enjoying my Test cricket. I learn a lot from Hasan Ali who stands with me on the field. In Test cricket, you can still use your skill but you must bowl to one area and test the batsmen for a long time.
I have learnt that over time and I’ve learnt how to set the field better now as well. The learning process is not finished. You can learn every day and I want to do that.”