From Landi Kotal to ICC cricketer of the year: Shaheen Afridi talks about his journey

Majority of Pakistani youngsters are unable to make their dream of playing for the national cricket team come true. Lack of facilities contribute to shattering the dreams of such youngsters more than anything.

Shaheen Shah Afridi belongs from the remote village of Landi Kotal in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), where there are no sports facilities. And it is nothing short than a miracle, when someone living in such a place makes it to the national cricket team.

Just like everyone of us, Shaheen Afridi’s home is filled with cricket enthusiasts. “Everyone, all of my brothers, are cricketers and I was inspired by watching them,” Afridi told Al Jazeera.

He added: “The biggest plus point of my life was that I have an older brother who was aware of cricket [Riaz, a former Test cricketer]. I followed him and he is my anchor in learning the sport.”

Shaheen Afridi said that he was mostly playing to enjoy the sport but the people around him always spoke highly of his talent. According to him, the biggest hurdle was living in a place with no access to grounds, facilities or academies.

Shaheen Afridi childhood
Can you guess which one is Shaheen Shah Afridi?

Things changed for Afridi when he joined the Islamia Cricket Academy, shortly after moving to Peshawar with his family. He would often watch cricketers such as Umar Gul train at the academy.

“I watched Gul and I wanted to learn from him. I felt so happy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Later, I kept repeating to myself that maybe I will play cricket in the future and represent Pakistan,” he said.

The 21-year-old also talked about his admiration for Shahid Afridi, who is considered a hero by him. Shortly after joining the academy, he made his way into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas under-16.

During the trials, the left arm pacer wasn’t sure about his selection. However, he got selected just after bowling two deliveries. After his selection, he was going to Karachi for the under-16 team camp.

“It felt a bit odd coming to a big city for the first time. I grew up in a village and then suddenly I’m in this unfamiliar world. I learned a lot from that experience, I made friends, received mentorship, it was a very different feeling.”

He impressed everyone during his time in the Under-16 squad and soon got picked for the U-19 team. Just within a few years of joining the academy, Shaheen made his debut in 2018 for the Pakistan cricket team.

The Lahore Qalandars’ captain also talked about the T20 World Cup match against India.

“It’s incomparable to anything else out there. I remember, even when I was back in school, I would drop everything, everyone around me would drop everything, to go and watch India vs Pakistan match.

“The pressure on October 24 was high, I could feel it, and I knew my performance would be remembered and define my cricketing journey. I’m happy we beat India that day, I can never forget that day.”

Shaheen Afridi feels that if people in his hometown “get proper access, they will be the future of the country, perhaps performing 10 times better than I do.”

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