Shaheen Shah Afridi, a Pakistani fast bowler, got caught up in cricket as a young child growing up in a household of seven cricket-obsessed siblings.
Riaz, the older brother, is a competent player with one Test cap under his belt. “I used to come home after training and he would take my pads and somehow wear them to bed,” Riaz said.
“He would place the stumps next to his pillow and dream of playing,” the source told AFP.
The lanky 23-year-old Shaheen’s ability to make those aspirations come true would be crucial to Pakistan’s chances of winning the World Cup in India.
The team was recently surpassed by India as the best ODI team in the world, and some fans are now doubting the team’s dedication and skill after a lackluster showing in the recent Asia Cup, which was won by its sworn cross-border enemies despite severe weather.
But there is no denying Shaheen’s commitment to the game.
Shaheen, who is from the lawless Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area of Pakistan, committed himself to cricket as soon as he could handle a bat. Landi Kotal, which lies close to the Afghan border, has an infamous reputation for drug traffickers and smugglers.
Only his dedication to watching matches rivaled his commitment to playing, according to Riaz.
When Pakistan won a match, his mood would improve. It would only get better again if he did well on the pitch or if Pakistan won.
He is currently among the most dreaded opening bowlers in any format of the game.
Shaheen recounted, “In my early days, I liked to throw the ball in school games rather than bowl it.
“Riaz bhai taught me how to bowl properly and pushed me to bowl quickly.”
He participated in a trial to join a local Under-15 squad in 2015, which led to his first success.
The selectors were drawn to his towering stature and quick movements, and it only took them two deliveries to notice his talent.
Shaheen remembers, “I bowled two deliveries perfectly on target, and they expressed their approval.
He later became the most successful bowler in the competition, taking 12 wickets, and was given a position on the Pakistan Under-16 team for a tour of Australia in 2016.
Former Australian captain Steve Waugh, who was present to watch his son play during one of these games, predicted Shaheen will become a star in the future.
Shaheen began working at Khan Research Laboratories, the organization that oversees Pakistan’s nuclear program and has a First Class cricket team, and had a significant impact right away.
The best First Class debut bowling performance by a Pakistani bowler was when he made his 2017 debut against a strong Rawalpindi squad, taking eight wickets for 39 runs.
Shaheen’s instructor, Aqib Javed, who played 22 Tests and 163 ODIs for Pakistan and was happy to see Shaheen’s natural talent, said, “I was thrilled to witness his natural talent.”
He was absolutely extraordinary thanks to his flawlessly coordinated movements, unwavering dedication, and natural talent to hit the ball.
Standing at a commanding 1.98 meters (six feet, six inches), Shaheen continued to advance each year, until being included in Pakistan’s Twenty20 team in 2018.
He made an impression with his pace during the 2019 World Cup in England, collecting 16 wickets in five matches, including the best tournament figures of 6-35 against Bangladesh at Lord’s.
He is now recognized as the nation’s fastest bowler, and in the Dubai Twenty20 World Cup in 2021, he smashed India’s top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, and Virat Kohli with figures of 3-31, giving Pakistan their lone World Cup victory to date over their bitter rivals.