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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Afridi: star or slogger?
Shahid Afridi propelled Leicestershire to the 2001 C&G Trophy final
Afridi provided many exciting moments during 2001

Shahid Afridi's merciless mauling of Holland in the ICC Champions Trophy was the latest chapter in the batsman's blink-or-you'll-miss-it career.

The opposition were not of the highest order, but the thrill-seeking opener has performed similar dismantling acts on some of the best attacks in the world.

Knocks like his unbeaten century against New Zealand in Sharjah six months ago underlined him as one of the most lethal limited-overs batsmen in the world.

  Afridi versus Holland
55 not out off 18 balls
4, 0, 4, 4, 4, 0, 1, 6, 6, 0, 6, 6, 0, 0, 2, 6, 0, 6
But though Afridi's periodical blasting sessions allow us to admire, open-mouthed, at a truly gifted sportsman they also remind us of the fragility of his genius.

Afridi is both a match-winner and walking wicket rolled into one.

When he hits he can finish a match off within 20 overs, when he misses he conveys a feckless air of desperation.

Witness his contribution to Leicestershire's 2001 C&G Trophy campaign.

The county arguably made the final on the back of his efforts at the top of the order.

Afridi looks skyward as he lifts a ball high into the air
Afridi launches into a speculative shot

But his cameo in the final, where he scored 20 off ten balls, left Leicestershire rudderless in their failed run-chase against Somerset.

His career in the green of Pakistan follows a similar theme.

In keeping with his random approach to cricket, Afridi's discovery as a damaging top-order batsman was somewhat accidental.

Brought into the Pakistan side at 16 years old ostensibly to replace the injured leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, Afridi's impact with the bat was both instant and breathtaking.

Facing Sri Lanka in his first ODI dig, Afridi bludgeoned 102 off 40 deliveries, equalling the most sixes in an innings (11).

Incidentally, the player with whom he shares the record, Sanath Jayasuriya, went for 94 off his ten overs in that game.

  Afridi's ODI record
164 matches
3783 run
24.73 average
3 centuries, 22 fifties
Highest score: 108 v India, 2002

And there begun Afridi's life as a career pinch-hitter.

Though he still occasionally trundles in with his leg-spinners - he took three wickets against the Dutch - he can thank his threat with the willow for the 164 appearances he has made for Pakistan.

Indeed, since his mesmerising first knock, Afridi has been a guaranteed fixture for Pakistan at the top of the one-day order.

A selection of other bright moments at international level suggest Afridi could well be rated one of the best there is, a talent tailor-made for the demands of the one-day game.

Afridi's approach works this time, scoring a half-century against England in 2000
Afridi kisses his bat after reaching one of 22 career 50s

But his overall record exposes him as shockingly enigmatic, a player whose reputation is founded on what he might do rather than what he does.

Just three centuries and a moderate average tells the story for Afridi, who is still young at 22.

What is more, he has failed to make a real impression in his native land, 72 against India at Karachi in 1997 being his highest score.

The fact remains that Afridi has not fulfilled his potential, though paradoxically his Test record is one that portrays him in a better light.

He averages 32.5 with two centuries from just 14 matches, and he literally beat India in 1999 with his own bat as a second-innings 141 saw Pakistan limp over the line by 12 runs.

Comparisons between Afridi and Australia's one-day hero Gilchrist abound.

Both can set - or alter - the tone of a match with speed of scoring, both are free improvisers and both please the crowd.

Pakistan selectors clearly believe Afridi can be of equal calibre, but Afridi has some way to go if he can bridge the divide from flawed genius to bona-fide international star.

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15 Apr 02 | Cricket
13 Aug 01 | Counties
27 Oct 00 | England on Tour
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