After decades of speculation (and jokes) over his real age, Shahid Afridi has finally come clean in his book Game Changer, saying he was born in 1975 and not 1980 as official records suggest.
In the same book, he goes on to say: “Also, for the record, I was just nineteen, and not sixteen like they claim. I was born in 1975. So, yes, the authorities stated my age incorrectly.”
This may sound confusing to the average brain educated in basic arithmetic, but in the Afridi-verse, arithmetic and reasoning always take a back seat.
Afridi’s age was the worst kept secret in the history of keeping secrets, and the revelation, albeit amusing, doesn’t surprise anyone. His freewheeling criticism of Gautam Gambhir, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Waqar Younis and several other cricketers doesn’t come as a surprise either. After all, if Afridi says something in public, and folks like Gambhir don’t respond to it, people in the post-truth world start suspecting if the original statement was fake news.
The biggest revelation in the book, and one we cannot gloss over as another Afridi-ism, is his tell-all tale about the spot-fixing scandal that rocked Pakistan cricket in 2010.
Afridi’s version of the spot-fixing story is as bizarre as his trigger-happy batting philosophy; the narrative has holes bigger than those in his forward defence. Only Afridi can admit to lying about his age for decades, and then in the same book expect you to believe in his bizarre stories on matters as serious as spot-fixing.
If Afridi’s account is to be believed, the deliberate no-balls bowled by Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir at the behest of their captain Salman Butt were just the tip of the iceberg among all the corrupt practices they were involved in.
He claims that Mazhar Majeed, the player agent who was the lynchpin of the whole scandal, had started hobnobbing with the players in question months before the actual incident.
Afridi said he received a transcript of the text messages exchanged between Majeed and a few Pakistani players when he was in Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup in 2010. According to him, a friend of a friend who repaired Majeed’s phone in England managed to read all his messages and leaked it to a select few, including Afridi, who was Pakistan’s captain in all three formats back then. Afridi showed the evidence to coach Waqar Younis and team manager Yawar Saeed, but no one in Pakistan’s establishment wanted to deal with it, so they left it at that.
Afridi speaks of his frustration over the inaction by Pakistan authorities during this period. However, as BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry said recently, Afridi should have reached out to ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) to report the matter. The ICC code clearly states the duty of the players: “Participants must report all approaches, or information regarding corrupt conduct, or invitation to engage in corrupt conduct, to the appropriate ACU, without unnecessary delay.”
What Afridi should’ve done
As captain, Afridi had an even larger responsibility to follow the ICC process. If his stories are correct, then all three players who received punishment for spot-fixing and are now back playing cricket should have attracted a more severe punishment after a thorough investigation of all their alleged involvement in various corrupt practices. As the most popular cricketer in Pakistan, Afridi could have taken this initiative back then and made sure the culprits got a life ban to serve as an example for other players.
As it happened, Pakistan had to deal with corruption again in 2017 during the Pakistan Super League, when six players got banned for their involvement in spot-fixing.
Loopholes in his stories
But all this is based on the assumption that what Afridi is saying is fact. When you discover the many loopholes, you start to wonder if he has forgotten some of the events or is cooking up stories.
While speaking of leaked messages, Afridi says he didn’t reveal the fact that he was in possession of evidence against Butt and others when, during the World T20 in the West Indies, all-rounder Abdul Razzaq told him in confidence that something was amiss in the activities of Butt, Amir and Asif.
A quick look at the cricket calendar of 2010 will tell you that the World T20 was played a month before Pakistan went to Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup, when Afridi claims to have received the evidence. Unless Afridi can time travel (some of his fans may swear he can), this sequence of events is simply not possible.
Afridi, being Afridi, is capable of oversight, but his co-author Wajahat Khan is one of the most celebrated journalists of Pakistan. You would expect Khan to point out some of these factual fallacies, but if Afridi never listened to his captains and coaches in his playing days, it’s unlikely he would listen to a journalist in his retirement.
Afridi also speaks of giving up the captaincy during the Test series against Australia and handing it over to Butt. Now if Afridi was so well aware of Butt’s involvement in malpractices (he claims he had done his own due diligence on Majeed and his cohorts by then), then giving the captaincy to Butt would be the last thing Afridi would do if he had the best interests of Pakistan cricket in mind.
The biggest take away from this book is still the open secret about Afridi's age. To which Lala clarifies saying that he didn't read the book.😂 pic.twitter.com/UAUmjL0lwB
— Naila Inayat नायला इनायत (@nailainayat) May 6, 2019
When Afridi was asked about some of these issues during the book launch, he said he hasn’t read the book yet. Classic Afridi, even in his writings!
It remains to be seen if the PCB or the ACU will take cognisance of Afridi’s revelations and order another inquiry into the matter, to bring out the whole truth about the corruption scandal of 2010.
Rajesh Tiwary tweets @cricBC and is known for his blend of cricket insights and irreverent humour. A self-confessed cricket geek, he prides himself in remembering every frame of grainy Television cricket coverage of the ’90s.