Dhaka, March 26 (IANS) One man who can turn the scales for Pakistan against arch rivals India is none other than their captain Shahid Khan Afridi who, with a haul of 21 wickets, is his team’s most successful bowler at any World Cup, overtaking the legendary Imran Khan’s tally of 17.
With 21 wickets from seven matches, the 31-year-old Afridi is now on a roll as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, only five short of Australia’s legendary fast bowler Glenn McGrath’s record of 26 wickets in the 2007 World Cup.
Afridi would get at least one game to overhaul McGrath’s feat. It could even be a maximum of two, but it all depends on whether his team manages to pull it off against India before a capacity crowd of 30,000 in the semi-final at Mohali.
In the quarter-final here earlier this week, Afridi had a 4-34 effort as West Indies were shot out for 112 and Pakistan cantered to victory inside 21 overs with all wickets intact.
Starting his international career as a swashbuckling batsman Afridi has evolved into a magical ODI leg-spinner, bamboozling the best in the business with his turns of the ball.
The Pakistan skipper has proved to be well-nigh unplayable on the slow and turning wickets of the subcontinent. And howsoever good the Indian batsmen play the spin, they need to be careful in negotiating his deliveries and reading his mind when they clash at Mohali.
Afridi has played a big part in Pakistan’s amazing show on spin-friendly tracks. He has not only choked the batsmen in the middle overs, but also plotted the downfall of the middle-order in four of the seven games his team has played.
Twice he has claimed five wickets, and four on two other occasions.
Against world No.3 ODI team Sri Lanka, Afridi took 4-34, but more importantly, he saw the back of his well-set counterpart Kumar Sangakkara at a time the islanders seemed to be well on the victory charge.
The only time Afridi went for over five runs an over was in the game against New Zealand when their stand-in captain Ross Taylor went berserk, and Pakistan stumbled to their only defeat in the tournament.
Ask him about his success with the ball, and Afridi says he is trying to bowl wicket-to-wicket utilising the spin-friendly conditions.
“As a captain, I try to perform to my best and set an example for the rest of the team,” he says.
As a 16-year-old, Afridi made the cricketing world sit up and take note of him after a whirlwind hundred off only 37 balls, the fastest ODI century in his only second international match, but in his first innings as a batsman. He has scored three of the top six fastest centuries in the 50-over format, and at the same time grabbed 300 plus ODI wickets.
The man born in the Khyber Pakhtunwa — a federally administered tribal area in Pakistan — and now a resident of Karachi, Afridi is the main bowling weapon of a nation seeking their second World Cup, having won it the first time in 1992.