KARACHI: Pakistan’s fast bowling factory keeps churning out talent that catches the eye instantly. Recently, a video of an unknown fast bowler went viral, leading cricket fans to wonder who the new talent was. Then it was revealed that the youngster had landed a two-year contract with the Dhaka Dynamites in the Bangladesh Premier League.
On Wednesday (September 27), the same youngster arrived in first-class cricket with a bang, taking eight wickets to set a new Pakistan record. Shaheen Shah Afridi is only 17 years old, a tall, strapping fast bowler from Pakistan’s once troubled north-west, the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA).
Shaheen’s dream debut was for Khan Research Laboratory against Rawalpindi, as he grabbed 8 for 39 in 15 overs in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan’s premier domestic tournament. He broke a 43-year old record, set by Nadeem Malik who had taken 8 for 58 for Lahore in 1973-74 on debut. Nadeem had followed that up with a seven-wicket haul, but he failed to make the national grade.
But Shaheen, who bowls like Mitchell Starc, is destined for greater heights.
The unassuming youngster has cricketing roots. Riaz Afridi, his brother, played one Test for Pakistan – against Sri Lanka in Karachi – and also featured in the rebel Indian Cricket League before his action was called into question.
It was Riaz who instilled cricket in his younger brother.
“I owe it to my elder brother,” said Shaheen. “I was born and raised in Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency of FATA. I was very fortunate that Riaz bhai played for Pakistan and I did not face much problems or resistance in choosing cricket as my career. He was a great inspiration for me and helped me learn the basics of bowling. He would take me to the ground and told me to play with a tape ball. His contribution is great.”
Shaheen, who took one wicket in the first innings before his 8 for 39 in the second, said he never dreamt of eight in his first match but owed it to the hard work of Rashid Khan, his team coach, and his own hard work.
“It’s amazing, taking nine wickets on my first-class debut,” he said. “It was definitely a dream start but I want to do better for my country. It has only pushed me in my resolve to do more, keep myself fit and listen attentively to my coaches and mentors. I want to wear the green shirt and follow the legacy of great fast bowlers that Pakistan has produced. I truly want to serve my country through this art of bowling.”
And Shaheen hopes to do well in the BPL to progress further. “I am humbled to get this opportunity. I got the BPL contract through my mentor Talha Aisham. He worked out this two-year deal for me with BPL defending champion Dhaka Dynamites.”
“The great Kumar Sangakkara, who is playing for Dhaka Dynamites, also spoke to the legend Mushy bhai about me, who was my coach in Under-16s. I will be representing Dhaka Dynamites in BPL,” added Shaheen, also crediting Mushtaq Ahmed, the NCA head coach, for his support in communicating with the Sri Lankan legend.
“I am happy that I will be playing with the best of the cricket worlds in the Dhaka Dynamites family such as Shahid Afridi, Kumar Sangakkara, Shakib al Hasan, Shane Watson, Sunil Narine, etc. This will bring more maturity to my game and bring me one step closer to my dream of representing Pakistan all around the globe.”
To no one’s surprise, Shaheen has Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as his idols, and has even dreamed of meeting Akram.
“Like any other genuine fast bowler, my inspirations are the great Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. They used to rip through batting line-ups with their toe-crushing yorkers and out of the world swing. I wish I can follow their footsteps,” said Shaheen.
Shaheen’s arrival promises a fast rise. If all goes well he is ready to wear the national colours sooner than later.