“He’s past his prime!”
“Do us a favour, stick to TV commercials.”
“Pakistan cricket could do just fine without him.”
Once you’ve read that several people you’ve heard saying this come into mind, or the players at whom this was targeted. Criticism often suits a player. But never should a legend be subjected to such statements. Never shall a player loved by tonnes fall victim to pointless criticism.
Indeed the victim I, alongside many, am defending is Shahid Afridi known as Boom Boom. Many think Afridi fans are ‘cricket-dumb’. They say we know he sows no seeds yet expect him to grow a plant. Pfft!
There was a time when not being an Afridi fan was doing injustice to cricket. A time when not one match went without expectations rising from the floor to the seventh sky as this man walked in. A time all wanted to witness that sky soaring six hit from the middle of his bat. No one talked ill of this player. But times have changed. Treatment of legends has changed. People forget that a player is not a legendary one only if he performs like one throughout his career, even if for a decade a cricketer remains the centre of expectations he remains a legend. Whether or not he stays a hero for the rest of his career all the love, support and respect he got when he was at the peak of his game shall not be affected. Because that’s like admiring a beautiful rose and throwing it back down the very next second as there happened to be a thorn in the stem that pricked your finger.
People say he left the team when it needed him the most. That he lost the semi finals against India in the 2011 World Cup. What many of them don’t see is that Lala captained a broken and disunited team. He took that team to the semis of the one event that holds utmost importance in world cricket. Many people don’t realize that when they say that Afridi left the team when it needed him most they’re actually admitting that this man is needed, that he can be a leader and on the other hand they say he’s of no good with either; bat or ball. Why these double standards? Why swim in the grey side rather the dark black or clear white?
These questions arise in the minds of many Afridi fans. It is agreed that he isn’t delivering what is expected of him. But as someone once said, “he is flawed and impetuous but there is magic in those Pathan eyes.”
The bad times of a player gives none the right to label him ‘tried, tested but failed’. Why neglect his contributions to the team and cricket as a whole? Why buck up a man in his triumphs but abandon him on his defeats? The times many players need us, we decide to look away.
Is this the treatment our heroes and legends deserve? They are what history will call the ‘best of their time’. They will be legacies. But what’s that to us? All we do is get the fresh, juicy fruits from the tree and when we’re bored of it we chop off the tree and watch it fall to the ground like waste. Forgetting all the times of joy it brought us. Forgetting that we used to wait seasons for the fruit to ripen. Forgetting the joy in competing with the birds to get to the ripened fruits first. Forgetting the times we used to savour the fruit like it was something glorious.
Why shall we be a nation that looks away when we mustn’t? Why shall we use our heroes as seasonal entertainment? Ask yourself these questions, but who am I kidding! If we’d learnt to question ourselves earlier than we would think a billion times over before insulting someone. We know only of being ungrateful. Pakistan would be a better place if we stopped focusing on the flaws of others and looked to those in ourselves.
In an aeon of impulsive changes in Pakistan, Lala stood as the well of dreams, of stories. In being the bearer of expectations, in being the vessel of millions of hopes, in subsisting as the ‘glue-to’ figure in a dispirited nation, Shahid Afridi the man and the cricketer paid an enormous price. As the sun of his career is just above the horizon ready to set, the phenomenon of Boom Boom has found a new essence, leaving its psychological form and effect, and settling into a portion of the hearts of countless beings.
A legend + A hope + A heart throb + A hero + A legacy = BOOM BOOM.
Respect Lala. He deserves it!
By: Fatima Arshad