By Shanuka Tissera
Little or no introduction is required for this iconic individual but his achievements deserve notification. He holds the fastest ODI century with 37 balls, at 16 years old he was the youngest player to hit an ODI century. He is one of 11 players to take more than 300 ODI wickets and also holds the record for twice hitting the second fastest 50. In an exclusive interview for the DailyFT, cricketing legend Shahid Afridi shares his thoughts on the Sri Lanka Premier League, best moments and advice to grow.
Q: Why did you choose cricket?
A: This is what I was passionate about since a young age. Being brought up in the Asian region, cricket becomes a part of your everyday life and I knew I wanted to be a professional cricketer once I got on the pitch.
Q: What is your most memorable cricketing moment?
A: There are plenty, but it would have to be when I got my first world record. At first I didn’t realise what I had achieved, I knew it was a milestone but it was only when I returned home it hit me. I had never been surrounded by such large crowds of fans with posters and gifts to welcome me. From that day, I was ready and fresh with a new pack of life.
Q: Who is the best bowler that you have faced?
A: It has to be Courtney Walsh who tops the list. Then I would say it is Glenn McGrath and Sean Pollock. It really requires immense concentration when you are batting against bowlers like that.
Q: How do you find the standard of the SLPL?
A: It has been good, all the players would like to see the stadiums packed, and that is when a real heated match will begin. I believe professional jealousy is okay as it brings out the fire in a team. So if I can say anything, it would be for the Sri Lankan people to come and watch some matches. Organisation has been good but like with anything, there is room for improvement.
Q: What opportunities will arise from the SLPL?
A: Firstly, it is a good opportunity to find up and coming young talent. We all love to play cricket but the real benefit will be for the Sri Lankan people to get a taste of the future players. There are a lot of fresh guys out there right now, proving they have what it takes and with the T20 world cup around the corner, everyone wants to be on their top form.
Q: What’s it like playing for Ruhuna Royals and what are your chances of winning the tournament?
A: We have a very good team with the likes of Lasith Malinga, Chamara Silva and have what it takes to win. Our bowling attack is highly venomous but we are not getting enough runs on the board. Our batting is slightly weak at the moment but it is something that we are working on in training. If we maintain this growth with our team getting on well, things should become brighter.
Q: Can you give any advice for the younger generations who want to become professional cricketers?
A: You must first realise that competition is extremely high. Thousands of kids want to be the next best bowler or batsman. It won’t happen overnight. They need to practise every day, I cannot emphasise the importance of hard work, skill is only 5%, and hard work is the rest. If you can balance between hard work and a clean heart, you should not have any worries.
Q: What would you like to leave behind for the future generations of cricketers?
A: You need to do what you love. I would like to make sure that good humour, especially in the dressing room, is active because it is a key component to team success. I have been fortunate enough to grow and play with some of the most talented batsmen and bowlers and have received a lot of love from people. The people here in Sri Lanka especially have been very welcoming and down to earth.