It has been 17 years since Shahid Afridi made his ODI debut for Pakistan.
It has been 17 years since I have been an Afridi fan and vocal supporter.
So much so that I have endlessly argued with the world about his value to the Pakistan ODI team on Well Pitched, Boys in Green, and on several other forums in the online world.
The first ODI against South Africa gave the Afridi critics another chance to blame the man who is a darling for the masses.
And blame him for what? For smashing a half tracker straight into the hands of deep mid wicket when Pakistan required only 7 runs to win.
Everyone forgot that Pakistan lost its last 6 wickets for 17 runs. Afridi was one of the six. There were 5 others and all of them got out to bad batting.
Magar gaaliyan to sirf Afridi ko hi deni hain na.
Everyone had also forgotten that Afridi, along with Saeed Ajmal, had been instrumental in restricting South Africa to 180 odd. A target that the Pakistan batsmen should have achieved.
Lekin nai. Gaaliyan to sirf Afridi ko hi deni hain na.
Well, nothing really shuts up the critics more than a match winning performance.
And Afridi produced just that in the 2nd ODI against South Africa in Dubai on Friday.
26 valuable runs. 3 crucial wickets. Man of the Match. Boom Boom!
Since his return to the national team, Afridi has played 10 ODIs against West Indies, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, for the following return:
17 wickets at an average of 18.23
194 runs at an average of 24.25
2 Man of the Match Awards
What else do you want?
Aur maangta kya hai Afridi se?
Is that not enough?
It is a fact that Shahid Afridi is the largest Superstar in Pakistan right now. One of the most exhilarating experience of watching cricket in a stadium is to witness the roar that welcomes Shahid Afridi to the pitch.
It is deafening.
Every time Afridi walks out, har bache se leke buddhe tak ka dil karta hai Boom Boom.
Besides being the largest Superstar in Pakistan currently, Afridi is also Pakistan's biggest match winner in ODIs.
On Friday, it was his 31st Man of the Match Award.
Only 6 players have won more MOM awards, and no one has won more for Pakistan. Another 2 MOM awards and Afridi will have the third most MOM awards in the history of ODIs.
Sure he's played a lot of ODIs - 364 of them, but his 31 MOM awards means that Afridi wins a MOM award at the rate of 1 in every ~12 ODIs (11.7). That is exactly the same rate as Ricky Ponting! (32 MOM in 375 ODIs).
Only Saeed Anwar has a better rate of winning MOM awards for Pakistan than Afridi (among players with more than 15 MOM awards for Pakistan in ODIs).
I don't think Pakistan has seen a bigger match winner than Shahid Afridi in limited overs cricket.
He is only 35 wickets away from becoming only the 5th bowler in history to take 400 ODI wickets.
Superstar, match winner, top bowler, and as my friend Fatima says "tu mera hero" !
Aur kya chahye Pakistanio ko?