‘Everyone Tampers’ & More Controversial Claims in Afridi’s Book

Pakistan’s former captain Shahid Afridi recently released his autobiography, titled ‘Game Changer’.

Updated04 May 2019, 09:11 AM IST
Cricket
8 min read

Pakistan’s former captain and star all-rounder Shahid Afridi recently released his autobiography, titled ‘Game Changer’.

The book, co-authored by Afridi and journalist Wajahat S Khan, details some interesting and exciting information from the cricketer’s life.

Afridi has been known for his aggressive style of play, both on and off the field. There are more than a few such statements in his autobiography that reflect why the cricketer remained surrounded with one controversy after another.

Here are a few of the topics the former Pakistani cricketer has touched upon in his book:

‘Everybody Tampers With the Ball’

Afridi writes about a particular bad series in Australia where during his first stint as captain, Pakistan were finding it difficult to win. So, out of desperation, Afridi admits tampering with the ball.

“I was desperate for a win because it was my first stint as captain. Plus, we were in Perth – the wicket there is never helpful to visiting sides from the subcontinent – which didn’t help in times of desperation. Pakistan was in a strong position to win but needed just a little bit of extra help with the ball. So, in front of cameras, with millions watching, I did what’s probably been done before but never captured on live television. I bit into the ball. Big, juicy bites, to dent it and make it work for us.”

Here is the thing, Afridi says, everybody tampers with the ball.

“I just showed the world how I do it without really trying to conceal it. It’s that simple. I wanted to win. I like to win. And I’m sorry, very sorry, that I did it. I was emotional and hungry for a win and yes, that’s why I ate the ball – or tried to.”
Shahid Afridi last played for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup hosted by India in 2016.
Shahid Afridi last played for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup hosted by India in 2016.
(Photo: AP)

‘I Was Ready to Falsely Testify to Save a Teammate’

Before getting an international call-up, Afridi was in the West Indies travelling with Pakistan’s ‘A’ U-19 team when his fellow teammate Zeeshan Pervaiz was accused of raping a woman.

Afridi writes: “According to Zeeshan, a woman, much older than him, had tried to entrap him. Though frankly, I felt both were at fault. There’s no real way of explaining this and defending him, except by saying that he was young, inexperienced – both in terms of travelling and women – and it was his first international tour.”

Afridi says Zeeshan and he had a bit of a history. A couple of days before the scandal became known, the two had an argument and a subsequent falling-out. “I felt terrible that a fellow teammate I had had a war of words with over some stupid locker-room row was now in deep trouble… So, there I was, ready to falsely testify to save a teammate… It’s what young men have always done for other young men in battle and in trouble, even if it doesn’t sound right or make any sense.”

"Eventually, thank God, there was no need for my testimony. It all worked out for Zeeshan - the court in Kingston acquitted him for lack of evidence. Though I'm not morally comfortable about it today, I was very proud then to have offered to help out a teammate in trouble. My motives were, without a doubt, well intentioned, even though the act - never committed by me - was allegedly, a dishonourable one. Thank God for the West Indies judiciary."

Former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad with the World Cup trophy. 
Former Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad with the World Cup trophy. 
(Photo: Reuters)

‘Lost All My Respect for Miandad’

For Afridi, the Pakistani great Miandad was different from the hero many youngsters had grown up to cherish in the 1980s. He says the conflict between the two was personal in nature. As a coach, Miandad hated his batting style, method, and technique, he says.

During Pakistan’s Test tour of India in 1999, Afridi writes that Miandad wanted to drop him from the team and only on the insistence of Wasim Akram and endorsement by the chief selector, did he make the cut.

“The stage was set for a disaster. Javed bhai was relentless. And that’s how the day before the Chennai match, he did something I consider highly unethical and unprofessional by not letting me bat at the nets. Bear in mind that I was the opener.”
Shahid Afridi in Game Changer

Afridi played the game and scored a century, and Pakistan ended up winning the match by 12 runs. “But Javed bhai’s attitude towards me touched a new low. Before the post-match presentation ceremony, he pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen, buddy, you’d better make sure you thank me in the presentation and interview. Tell them how I’ve groomed you and made you a good batsman. Understood?’.

“That day I lost all my respect for Javed Miandad, supposedly one of the greats of the game but in reality, a small man.”

‘Feminists Would Have Chewed Us Both'

Afridi has spoken in great detail about his admiration for soldiers and the institution of the Pakistan army. Recalling an interaction with former military dictator General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf, who Afridi refers to as ‘great soldier’, in Lahore in the year 2000, he writes: “Three days earlier, I had got married before a big match versus England. I did remarkably well with a five-for and a half-century. General sahib was in attendance, of course.

“After the match, he came up to me and congratulated me for a job well done. Now, knowing him, he couldn’t just congratulate me and decided to slip in a comment. He said something along the lines of, ‘Afridi, your performance has improved after marriage’. At which point, I couldn’t hold back and said, ‘Well, sir, in that case, I think I’m gonna go for a second marriage to doubly improve my performance’. We had a grand laugh and then he said that a second marriage wouldn’t be bad idea if I could score a century and get 10 wickets. Thank God, the media was not around, or the feminists would have chewed us both up for that banter.”

‘Curious Case of Gautam Gambhir’

“Oh, poor Gautam. He and his attitude problem. He, who has no personality. He, who is barely a character in the great scheme of cricket. He, who has no records, just a lot of attitude. He, who behaves like he’s a cross between Don Bradman and James Bond or something. In Karachi, we call guys like him saryal, burnt up.

In one of the chapters in the book, Afridi goes deeper into the players’ psyche while playing India and the emotions involved. He recalled a run-in with Gambhir during the 2007 Asia Cup, when completing a run the Indian batsmen ran straight into Afridi.

“The umpires had to finish it off or I would have. Clearly, we had a frank bilateral discussion about each other’s female relatives. Whatever, Gambhir doesn’t matter. There are bigger fishes to fry when playing India,” writes the former Pakistan captain.

‘They Play God, These Media-Walas’

Afridi’s bluntness is visible in the writing of his autobiography. It reflects a no-holds-barred approach, just like his batting used to be during his playing days on the international circuit.

He reveals being addicted to the news. But complains that news channels have become more like movie channels. There is a lot of overacting and there is a lot of lying, he says.

“You can see the script unfold, live on prime-time television. Even though the press is crucial for the country, journalists forget that they need to be a source of inspiration, not desperation. Seemingly, most anchors and reporters are not educated and that clearly shows. They are barely ethical, too, and that shows as well. I understand the concept of breaking news. But not the concept of breaking the country or the sport or hearts. They play God, these media-walas. This insanity has to stop.”

Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir was one of the cricketers involved in the 2010 spot-fixing saga. After serving a suspension and a prison sentence, Amir made a comeback to the Pakistan cricket team. 
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir was one of the cricketers involved in the 2010 spot-fixing saga. After serving a suspension and a prison sentence, Amir made a comeback to the Pakistan cricket team. 
(Photo: AP)

Uncovering the Spot-Fixing Saga

On the disgraceful spot-fixing scandal in 2010, Afridi writes he got hold of the original evidence in the corruption racket: phone messages that would eventually come into play against the players involved in the controversy. But when he took the evidence to the team management, he says, what happened next didn't inspire much confidence in those tasked with managing and running the affairs of Pakistan's national cricket team.

Afridi says Mazhar Majeed, the fixer who looped in the cricketers, took his mobile phone to a repair shop in London and that’s where the news broke out.

"In a random coincidence, the shop owner turned out to be a friend of a friend of mine (this may sound like too much of a coincidence but the Pakistani community in England is quite closely connected). While fixing the phone, the shop-owner, who was asked to retrieve the messages, came across Majeed's messages to the players of the Pakistan team. Though he shouldn't have seen what he did, it was that leak from him to my friend and a few others (whom I won't name) that looped me in on the scam. Soon, word got around that something strange was happening with the cricket team. It was that leak which probably tipped off the reporting team from News of the World as well."

Afridi says he showed those to coach Waqar Younis who didn't escalate the matter. During Pakistan's tour to England in the summer of 2010 when he saw Majeed and his cohorts lurking around and hanging out with the soon-to-be-accused players, he sounded the alarm and took up the issue officially with the team manager Yawar Saeed.

"I put in a formal request that Mazhar Majeed should be distanced from the players, physically, and that no one in the team should associate with him even on a personal level ... When Saeed didn't take action, I showed him the text messages - I'd printed them out on paper. After going through them, Saeed, taken aback, eventually came up with a dismal response: 'What can we do about this, son? Not much. Not much.'"

India 2.0

Afridi admits, without sugarcoating, that things between India and Pakistan have gone from ‘bad to worse’. He writes current state of affairs between the two countries are ugly and hurt both nations.

“First, policy: we have always welcomed India, in all matters related to the game. The love and welcome they’ve received on their previous tours of Pakistan – at least the ones I played in – have been on such a scale that I don’t think Indian players will ever forget it.”

But the former Pakistan all-rounder regrets that India has not reciprocated Pakistan’s overtures.

“Unfortunately – and I’m not talking about politics, diplomacy or proxy wars here … There were days when Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena alone would threaten our team when we toured. Now, with Narendra Modi government in power at the centre, the hateful era of Thackeray and the Shiv Sena pales in comparison with the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) government’s broader Hindutva policies towards Pakistan and Pakistan cricket.”

(Umer Bin Ajmal is a multimedia journalist who has worked for several Pakistani media organisations. He tweets@umerbinajmal. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them)

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Published: 04 May 2019, 04:47 AM IST
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