Does Afridi need to behave himself?
Cricketers have turned into politicians using talk shows for their verbal wars. Why is criticism taken negatively?
While there are several serious issues brewing in Pakistani cricket, perhaps the worst is that senior cricketers have started quarreling over comments passed by each other, adding spice to cricket talks shows, but creating chaos in the media.
Pakistan finally managed to win a series against South Africa for the first time. They managed to win the hearts again of Pakistani cricket lovers, and at the same time Misbahul Haq won appreciation from critics too.
Sadly, Shahid Afridi’s performance throughout the series raised a lot of questions about his batting performance especially since he has played 300 plus matches yet still resorts to the same careless shots.
Cricket drama starring Afridi, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Akhtar
Sitting on a TV talk show, Sikandar Bakht, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Yousuf chastised Afridi for underperforming in the South Africa series. Afridi took it upon himself to lash out at the former players with comments like,
“I don’t care about what they say. But the way some of these experts behave and act is as if the team never lost in their time. To me, comments from Heckle and Jeckle and Mr Bean don’t make a difference.”
The comments made at the airport after his return to Pakistan sparked even more controversy.
Replying to Afridi’s comments, Yousuf said,
“I have said it before...he is still like a child and immature. But I will repeat again - youngsters should not make Afridi their role model. I just say what is true and if Afridi is upset about it I don’t care because everyone knows about his behaviour.”
Akhtar in particular was furious and went on Geo saying Afridi had shown the difference between an educated and an illiterate person.
“I am surprised that he has not grown up. He has played for Pakistan through his 360 ODI’s...still he has gained no maturity. He should look at his performance - sometimes he says I am not a bowler and then he says I am not a batsman, Are you playing for Karachi Gymkhana or Pakistan? I am only talking about what happened in the ground. I don’t want to open my mouth but I know which players sold Pakistan cricket, and when.”
Let’s be positive
What I see in this case is that Afridi is a legend and one of the pioneers of fast cricket.
His century from 37 balls against Sri Lanka in 1996 made him a hero, yet he is considered an unreliable batsman despite having played 300 matches. Though his bowling has improved a great deal, he is counted as an all-rounder who needs to score also.
Afridi’s Performance this year ODI:
Matches: 20 | Runs: 375 | Highest score: 88
Batting average: 22.05 | Wickets: 22 | Bowling average: 32.18
Moreover, the legend has a huge fan base. People believe in him, they follow him, they like him and even worship his skills. He needs to groom himself as a legend too. This is the third time he has created a spectacle at the airport after returning from an international tournament.
Let’s take India’s team as an example. MS Dhoni won the World Cup 2011 for his country and he is counted among the world’s best captains, but if today his team loses a match, the media crosses all bounds while criticising them.
Yet, I don’t remember ever hearing words such as ‘Heckle Jeckle’ or ‘Mr Bean’ from him about his team members or anyone else, neither have I read of him creating a spectacle at airports.
Afridi’s response to the comments of Yousuf and Akhtar is a reflection of the current state of our team. When you cannot face criticism pointed towards your performance, you cannot progress.
A critic’s job is to appreciate when you score, and criticise when you do not. It is as simple as that. If people agree with what a critic has to say about a certain player then no one cares about the player's past record. Akhtar is one such critic. He has won vast viewership because the public generally agrees with what he has to say.
The best answer to any criticism is the score card. If a player is under pressure or if fingers are pointed at him, the best way is to focus on your weak points, work to overcome them and come up with a good score.
Instead of creating a hoopla, senior players should act their part and focus on remedying the issue by providing their services to the nation. Those who are criticised should take those comments positively and avoid developing personal grudges. If the critic makes personal remarks, the player should be the bigger person and ignore it for the sake of cricket and his own reputation.
In short, Afridi needs to rethink his personality and performance.
He needs a break from the game and has to give himself time to work on his weak points. He needs to understand that the only answer to criticism is performance, good performance. Since he is highly paid for being in the game, he needs to start taking his job seriously and work to earn his place. Only once he starts playing responsibly will this questioning come to an end.
Respect cannot be demanded, it has to be earned.