(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Published: Fri 26 May 2023, 3:01 AM
Shaheen Shah Afridi stepping on the field with an injured knee to a deafening noise in the 2022 T20 World Cup final against England remains one of the most iconic images in cricket history.
Afridi, who had overcome a poor start in the tournament to return to his wicket-taking best, injured his knee while taking a catch in the 13th over of the England innings in the title decider at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
With 41 needed off 30 balls on a difficult wicket, England was in all sorts of trouble.
Sensing an opportunity, Afridi decided to return to the middle to bowl the critical 16th over against Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.
Afridi ran in as the crowd roared and bowled a dot ball only to collapse again.
He was writhing in agony before limping out of the ground in a heartbreaking scene.
Iftikhar Ahmed gave away 13 runs off the remaining five balls of that over, including a four and a six to Stokes who turned the game decisively in favour of England.
Stokes went on to remain unbeaten on 52 as England completed a famous victory.
But to this day, Afridi is convinced that he would have stopped England's Ashes and 2019 World Cup hero from winning that T20 World Cup if he was fit.
"Obviously, it's every player's dream to win a World Cup for his country and I still remember 2021, how that ended," the Pakistan fast bowler told espncricinfo, referring to his disappointing 19th over of the 2021 T20 World Cup semifinal against Australia in Dubai.
"And in this tournament (2022), if I didn't get injured at such a crucial moment, maybe we could've won. Maybe if I had stayed fit and bowled..."
The spearhead of Pakistan attack is now back to his best, having returned with impressive figures in the home series against New Zealand.
He also led Lahore Qalandars to the 2023 Pakistan Super League title with a man-of-the-match performance in the final.
In an epic final against Multan Sultans, Afridi hit a stunning 15-ball 44 as Lahore made 200 for six.
He then took four wickets to help Lahore clinch the humdinger by one run.
This was Lahore's second straight PSL triumph under Afridi's captaincy.
Captaincy, he says, allows him to lead from the front.
"Captaincy is totally different to bowling," he told espncricinfo.
"You have to keep the entire team on the same page with that. With bowling, you only think about what you are doing with the ball, how to bowl to the captain's plans.
"With captaincy, you're thinking about your bowling but also about every member of the team, what mood they're in, how they're feeling. That is a totally different job. But I've enjoyed it lots.
"I think the line between the two [captaincy and bowling] is quite clear. If you are the captain, you know when you need to bring a certain bowler on and at what moment, whether it is a pressure moment.
"As a captain there's always the option that I can bring myself on at that tough moment. If I don't lead from the front at that time then obviously the team can start thinking negatively that the captain is hiding himself."
Cricket fans across the world will certainly be hoping now to see Shaheen follow in the footsteps of the legendary Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and become the latest fast bowler to lead Pakistan.
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