The number 10 jersey in football is reserved for the best. Pele, Maradona, Zidane and Messi just to name a few have donned this sign of respect and adoration. Looking back, this jersey was assigned to the playmaker. Those familiar with football will know that the playmaker basically runs the show for a team. He is the glue that holds the team together. In short the playmaker is the heart of the game.
Speaking of heart, being a supporter of the Pakistan cricket team is not for the faint hearted. Their performances like our heartbeats raise you up onto cloud number 9 and pull you down to the depths of despair.
On 2 October 1996 a star was born into the cricketing world that has since shone brightly for the men in green. That star rewrote the record books and changed the way cricket is played.
The enormity of his feat is understood by the fact that the record stood for 18 years and only one person has equalled or bettered it. Despite the Chris Gayles or the AB DeVillers or the Virat Kohlis trying no one has been able to do what this man did in Kenya that day.
His batting heroics left many a captain scratching their heads and millions worldwide mesmerised. To say he pioneered a change in the thought process of cricket fans and players would be factual. He made the impossible possible.
The man was named Sahibzada Muhammad Shahid Khan Afridi. There is only one, the man who can turn the game on its head with his sixes, his googlies or brilliant fielding. The man who defines Pakistan cricket – heart. The mind says you play sensibly but the fearless heart says just play. Akin to a person jumping from a tall building where the mind says what if I fall and the heart says what if you fly.
Over the past two decades a lot has changed in cricket. But what has not is the fear and excitement that the name Afridi brings to foes and fans respectively. In an era where match fixing has ruined reputations and careers Afridi has held his head up. Outspoken yes, but never has one questioned his commitment and honour. He has always given his best and yes he has gone down fighting but that is the gladiator that is Afridi. He will fight till his last breath.
I once thought what would happen if I were to do my job with 60,000 people shouting my name and millions of people expecting me to perform. The sheer pressure would not let me move a muscle. Yet Afridi has done it for two decades.
The heart of the Pakistan team is the number 10 and like our hearts it has its ups and downs. So let us open up our hearts and give a fitting tribute to the only man who can make it go Boom Boom.
Thank you Lala for the wonderful memories. The cricket world will always and forever only have one Shahid Afridi. And I can boldly say he made my country proud.