In 21st century Pakistan, cricket can be called the opiate of the masses, and the hardest most potent drug of all is one Shahid Khan Afridi. Pakistan has produced far better cricketers than Afridi who brought greater accolades and honor home, some were even bigger stars and some had more charisma but no one invoked as much passion among its subjects as Shahid Afridi does, for he is, undoubtedly, Pakistan’s favourite son.
Pakistan, unfortunately, is divided on most matters, whether it is the matter of royalties for natural resources, water distribution or Veena Malik’s conduct in the house of Big Boss; what Pakistanis agree on, wholeheartedly is that Afridi is essential to cricket in Pakistan and they would want him around for as long as he can play. Afridi is the biggest – perhaps the only – leveler in Pakistan. He belongs to everyone and is adored by all with the same intensity.
Pakistanis whether living at home or abroad love Afridi, whether they are young, old or senile, they love Afridi. Whether they are male, female or a hermaphrodite, they love Shahid Afridi. Whether they are gay, straight, confused, bisexual, trysexual or asexual, they love Shahid Afridi. Whether they are tribal or urbane went to one of the Peela schools or something as elitist as Aitchison or KGS, they love Shahid Afridi. They love Afridi because essentially they can all see a little bit of themselves in him, for he is a quintessential Pakistani – irreverent, restless, a little rough around the edges, impulsive, talented, street smart, ambitious but a little clueless (ok, Pakistan is a lot more clueless, but this is not the place for that rant), quirky and oh-so-endearing.
Though his heart is always in the right place, like most of Pakistanis, the line for right or wrong is a little blurry for him. He has danced and hopped and walked on a pitch to make it work – of course for the country –got caught and was forgiven by all because he was doing it for the motherland. He tried chewing a ball with over a couple of dozen cameras zooming in on him – again for the country – and we absolved him. He was impulsive and did not think but we forgave because we all have been guilty of doing the same. Afridi, probably like most of the Pakistanis, believed that the end justifies the means and was willing to go to any lengths to win it for us, even if meant chewing a ball with Umar Gul’s sweat on it!
Afridi has announced his retirement as frequently as Lindsey Lohan has attended rehab – which is an insane number of times – but he always comes back and we always welcome him with open arms
Though Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif have gained more notoriety for getting banned, Afridi too has had his share of bans for pirouetting on the pitch in Faisalabad, for mistaking the ball for an apple in Dubai and hitting a spectator with his bat in South Africa. He also received various reprimands from PCB for shooting from his mouth. Unlike Akhtar and Asif, Afridi is can transgress like no other and is still forgiven by all.
Just like most Pakistanis, Afridi too has gone through an identity crisis. He got into the team as a leggie and then scored that record breaking earth shattering mind numbingly stupendous century and deluded himself for a very long time that he is a batsmen. He then thought of himself as a batting all rounder. However, unlike most Pakistanis, he has metamorphosed into what he was always destined to be – a bowler. Though his heroics as a bowler are legendary these days, the idea of an Afridi six still has aphrodisiac like qualities and despite coming to terms with the fact that he is mainly a bowler, we all yearn for those blows that have enthralled us all for oh so long.
Just like other Pakistanis, Afridi refuses to learn and continues to make the same mistakes. While Pakistanis continue to elect the same old faces and vacillate between democracy and dictatorship, Afridi continues to squander his wicket playing one suicidal shot after another. He may shake his head and vow never to slip-up again but every time he puts on the pads, out goes the memory and the rush of blood propels him to do the same – all Pakistanis have been guilty of this, hence we forgive our mercurial Lala for all his follies.
Diplomacy and tact are alien to most Pakistanis; we are one of the most “in your face” people in the world and Shahid Afridi is a true son of Pakistan. Whether telling the world that PCB has announced the team without his consultation or calling Yasir Hamid an idiot with mental faculties of a 15 year old, Afridi never shied away from making his opinions known.
Lala is the only Pakistani and third player in the world to have scored 6000 runs, taken 100 catches and 250 wickets in ODI history. He is also the first, and to date only, cricketer to have taken 50 wickets in T20 and also holds the record for hitting maximum number of sixes ever but we also know that we don’t love him for his cricketing prowess.
Let’s admit it. Lala is not the best cricketer who has ever graced this land, nor is he most articulate, but he is magic when he is on field, even when he does not do much. But when it is his day, he is breathtaking. Back in 2005, I went to see an ODI against England in Karachi. The crowd screamed when Afridi’s name was announced as he was back in the side after two match ban. He came and played a short and sweet innings like he mostly do. He got run out because of a bad call from MoYo. So miffed was the crowd with MoYo that he dared to get Lala out, the a full capacity National stadium booed him and the stand I was in did not even cheer him for his half century. That was the day I was convinced that Lala transcends it all and appeal to people like very few mortals can. He can temper with the pitch and get banned, eat the cricket ball, cavort with Indian actresses, peddle awful soda drinks, kill animals and gets away with it all.
Afridi sells and every brand manager worth his salt knows it. He can add the cool quotient to something as mundane as rice or toothpaste and make it popular beyond its target audience because Lala’s audience is just about everyone. If anyone has doubts, they should check his title of Boom Boom on the shirts of the whole cricket team – a brand name that is coined after him. Heck, he has even made spin bowling look sexy.
Here is some Lala love for all Afridi fans.
Lala is not at home in test kit
Lala ki sawariyan
Lala is awesome in a car
But then Lala is just as awesome inside a plane
and no one can rock bus riding like Lala does
Lala – the sartorial wonder
Lala in a cap
Lala does wonders for chappals
Lala attempting Levity
All tied up and ready to go
on the right head, even namaz ki topi can be a fashion statement
Modeling for his own brand
Working a floral shirt
Working desi formals – with ice cream parlor chor in the background
Afridi with relief goods in Balochistan during 2007 floods
Afridi signed up for I-Own-Karachi campaign
Flood relief work in KPK
Flood relief work
Awww I got visited by Lala
Probably telling the mates how did he dance around the pitch and got banned
He models with mates when the occasion calls for it, sometimes even the crew joins in
Even Brett Lee is charmed by our Lala
But MoYo is more interested in Burger (Would Burger King be Halal enough for MoYo?)
Doing the kaptani duty
Convincing the coach that he indeed is a lucky bastard
With Rashid Lateef
Lala in groupie mode with Courtney Walsh
Younus loves him as much as we do
Lala inspires awe in his fans …
This kid is in seventh heaven
aray yaar camera tau hathao samnay se
Lala in the middle
Yes!!! got an autograph. My friends will be, like, so jealous.
demand for autograph is just as great among aunties..
and kids …
and gora people
the police walah is probably envied by his colleagues
Lala craze in unfazed
This girl is ecstatic but who can blame her,he is actually holding her hand
Lala the family man
playing with daughter
Come on Lala, keep your children away from Kakmal, he is bad influence
and he should also keep his girls away from Inzi and his towel clad gaddi nasheen son
With Aqsa and Ajwa
Lala in action
defying gravity with blond highlights
with gray hair at the temples
major lolz, Lala attempting to read ICC rulebook. Kakmal and Gullay are not even trying
Lets get that one
At times, Lala kills soft furry birds
but then he takes on a snake as well
Though he gets paid shitloads of money to peddle pepsi, he is not averse to other brands
Telling reporters to bow down to his awesomeness
Making prayers look cool (YK needs to shave though)
What??? Lala leading the prayers even when MoYo has a bigger beard and spend far more money on beard hair dye!!!
Under pressure, he can mistake the ball for an apple
If only I had food available, I would not have eaten that ball
Inzi bhai tau road pe lay aye hain yaar
that’s why I sell that shampoo
is that a hint of a paunch? the fans really don’t care
Lala can also work a pole without stripping
Self love much? ghar ke har kamray main apni hi photo
o ja bhai, rasta pakar
SRK wants a piece of Lala
Lala is so beyond cool that even Ashton Kutcher copied his look
With arms wide open
and still open
oh the arms
and that’s how it became the signature style
and here I am … again
I get escorts, but not the right kind
Come on man, you gotta listen to me..
yes, cheer me on
yar bhaji, you dont crack Patha jokes and I wont crack sardar jokes
Lala is so nice, he even takes care of the crying babies
Need some breathing space please
A towel over shorts!!! I think Lala is trying to hide the fact that there is less fab and more flab around the waist
An ass-tastic view
PS: this is perhaps the most time consuming post ever PPS: I initially posted some 85 odd pictures but then decided to go for a century, so added a few more.