The sole T20 Pakistan played against England was the first one Pakistan played since the disastrous T20 World Cup this year in India. The difference was stark. Although it was new captain Sarfraz Ahmad’s first official match as captain of the side, Pakistan ran the show, running away with a 9 wicket win.
In all the instant euphoria of winning two consecutive limited overs matches(Pakistan won the last ODI as well) following four heavy losses, one man seemed to be the last thing on people’s minds. Shahid Afridi has been the face of limited overs cricket for Pakistan for the last 20 years, yet after he expressed his desire to play on following the T20 World Cup, many people seemed to take offense. The chief selector dropped him from the T20 squad, and no one batted an eye. Suddenly it looked like a player who was the sole focus of the whole nation for nearly two decades had overstayed his welcome.
Many have said over the years, that he plays only because of the nation’s love for him. Selectors have tried to get rid of him, citing his unchanging attitude in batting, or his ineffectiveness in bowling, but every time he comes back with a bang. Who can forget the unbelievable comeback against the West Indies(76 off 55 and 7-12) after Champions Trophy exile in 2013? It’s the people who keep bringing him back. Even in the match against England, there were signs with “We miss Boom Boom” on them.
But the question arises again, has he overstayed his welcome? Should he have retired after World T20 to save himself from this fate? He wanted to go out on a high, he stated that ahead of the tournament when he announced he was considering retirement. But the World Cup was one of the worst performances Pakistan has put together as a team in limited overs tournaments. I suppose it is excusable for a man to want to finish with grace.
He may never play for Pakistan again. He has been a great servant, whether you agree or not is up to you. He is still ready to serve any time the selectors call him. But the question remains, is he still the darling of the nation who fawned over him every time he did his iconic celebration? Will the nation rally behind him once again to push for a place in the national side? Or is it time for him to move on from his love of 20 years? The team looked good against England, but it is only one match. The wonderful love of ours that is cricket has a way of throwing up surprises of the kind you cannot imagine in your wildest fantasies, quite a few of those involving the man himself(Asia Cup 2014 anyone?). So sit tight and hope that everything turns out in the best interests of Pakistan.