Who is Shaheen Afridi?
Shaheen Afridi is a Pakistani cricketer who plays as a left-arm pacer. He hails from Landi Kotal, a small town located in the north-western region of Pakistan. The youngest of seven brothers in the family, Shaheen dreamt of being a cricketer ever since he saw his eldest brother, Riaz Afridi, playing in domestic matches and one international test match. The international media dubs Shaheen as the “Pakistani Mitchell Starc,” comparing him with the Australian fast bowler. The 17-year-old Pakistani cricketer is a hard hitter and excels in fielding too, making him an all-rounder. Shaheen started his international cricketing career with the Pakistani ‘Under-19’ squad for the 2016 ‘Asia Cup’ and put up a brilliant performance. Later, he was selected in the ‘Bangladesh Premier League’ (BPL) team ‘Dhaka Dynamites.’ In the 2018 ‘Under-19 Cricket World Cup,’ he emerged as the leading wicket-taker for his team, and subsequently, the ‘International Cricket Council’ (ICC) named him “the rising star of the squad.” He is a promising young player, and it is highly likely that he will be part of the Pakistani national squad in the coming months.
Childhood & Early Life
Shaheen Afridi was born on April 6, 2000. He belongs to the “Zakha Khel Tribe” that resides primarily in the north-western ‘Federally Administered Tribal Area’ (FATA) of Pakistan, close to the Afghanistan border. He grew up in a lower middle-class family in a small town known as Landi Kothal. He is the youngest of seven brothers. The eldest brother, Riaz Afridi, has followed a career in cricket for quite some time, although he could never make it big.
Shaheen is 15 years younger than Riaz. The brothers often played together, using tennis balls and cheap bats. Shaheen often accompanied his brother to his matches, and in the process, was inspired to begin a career in cricket. Their locality did not allow them the luxury of a proper cricket ground. Thus, Shaheen and the local boys played wherever they could.
Shaheen was academically weak and devoted most of his time to cricket. At the age of 14, he told his parents about his dreams of becoming a cricketer. Initially, he was sceptical about his family’s reaction. However, since he already had a brother who was trying to build a career in the same sport, his family did not object much. Having an elder brother in the same domain meant Shaheen was already aware of most of the challenges that could come with the sport.
He decided to move to Peshawar and join a cricket academy to hone his skills at a professional level. There, he played for various clubs as a fast bowler. His tall frame and swift bowling style got him several wickets and this paved his way to enter a cricket academy in Lahore. While his brother mostly remained busy, they often talked over phone, as Shaheen took valuable tips from him.
Shaheen also proved his ability of hitting the ball hard. Thus, he started working harder to make a name for himself in the world of cricket and to be one of world’s best all-rounders.
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Shaheen Afridi’s first stint with professional cricket and with the “hard ball” was when his brother introduced him to the real cricket ball at the ‘FATA Under-16’ trials in the year 2015. Shaheen had only played with the tennis ball until then. He felt empowered after getting the professional cricket ball in his hands and started practicing in the nets rigorously.
Eventually, he got his first major career breakthrough after being selected to play for the ‘Under-16’ team of his country in the 2015 tour of Australia. He played a major role in leading his team to a 2–1 victory. This was his first ever tryst with an international ground. His performance was average at best, but good enough to earn him a spot in the national ‘Under-19’ team.
In December 2016, Shaheen became part of the Pakistani squad that was to play in the 2016 ‘Under-19 Asia Cup,’ which was to be held in Sri Lanka. In his debut match in the tournament, against Singapore, he took three wickets and gave away only 27 runs. Following this, he caught the attention of the international and the local media. He was instantly hailed as the “next big thing” in Pakistani cricket.
Mustaq Ahmed, the head coach at Lahore’s ‘National Cricket Academy,’ was highly impressed by Shaheen’s performance, and he sent some videos of Shaheen’s bowling to Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan master cricketer. This led to his inclusion in the ‘BPL,’ as part of the ‘Dhaka Dynamites.’ Thus, he became one of the very first players to be a part of the ‘BPL’ without ever having played a domestic match. He signed a two-year contract, but his other commitments did not allow him to stay with the ‘Dhaka Dynamites’ for too long.
He was called back to play first-class cricket for ‘Khan Research Laboratories’ in the 2017-18 ‘Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.’ In his first-class debut on September 26, 2017, he gave away 39 runs and took eight wickets. The local media appreciated his performance with open hearts, as this was the best performance ever by a Pakistani bowler in his first-class debut match.
Following this remarkable performance, it was almost certain that Shaheen would be one of the front-runners in the race for a spot in the national ‘Under-19’ team, which was to play in the ‘Under-19 World Cup.’ Regarding his selection, Shaheen stated that it was his dream to play for his national team since childhood.
Shaheen lived up to the expectations of the Pakistani public in the ‘Under-19 World Cup,’ and with 12 wickets throughout the tournament, he emerged as the leading wicket-taker for Pakistan. His performance in the tournament made the ‘ICC’ name him the “rising star of the squad.” Some also compared him with Shahid Afridi, who had also had an electrifying start to his international career.
Shaheen Afridi is a huge fan of his brother Riaz Afridi, who played a friendly test match for Pakistan back in 2004. Shaheen has reportedly stated that although he considers Wasim Akram to be his “guru,” his brother Riaz has always supported and guided him whenever Shaheen has been in need of instant tips.