Shaheen Shah Afridi Shah celebrates after taking the wicket of KL Rahul (L) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Sunday night. Reuters
Standing at an imposing 6ft 6ins (1.98m), Shaheen Shah Afridi, the first-strike destroyer of India at the T20 World Cup, is the latest high-end product of Pakistan's fast bowling factory — left-arm division.
From Wasim Akram to Mohammad Amir, with passing hat tips in recent years to the likes of Wahab Riaz and the giant Mohammad Irfan, Shaheen on Sunday devastatingly proved his star quality.
Unburdened by carrying the same name of one of his country's iconic white-ball pioneers — as well as inheriting Shahid Afridi's number 10 shirt — the 21-year-old shattered the hopes of India with a mesmerising spell of fast bowling.
His 3-31 off four overs was the prelude to Pakistan finally ending their jinx against India with a first win in 13 attempts in World Cup competition.
"We give him the freedom to strike," said Pakistan bowling coach and former South African fast bowler Vernon Philander on Monday. "It's an asset to have left-arm fast bowlers. Shaheen is such a wonderful talent."
Shaheen Afridi takes a selfie along with his teammates after winning the T20 match against India in Dubai. AFP
Even India skipper Virat Kohli, one of Shaheen's victims in Sunday's landmark 10-wicket rout, appreciated the impact of the bowler's four-over blitz.
"In T20 cricket you need good execution to pick up wickets with the new ball and he certainly did that," Kohli said. "He put our batsmen under pressure and ran in with intensity."
A blistering yorker pinned Rohit Sharma on the back foot for an lbw decision as cut-and-dried as any.
KL Rahul followed, his T20 International average of 40 no defence against the velocity of the ball that swept through the gate and demolished his stumps.
"I don't care what nick you are in, I don't care how many runs you've got, you ain't playing that," said former England captain Nasser Hussain from the TV commentary box.
Shaheen returned to see off Kohli for good measure.
It was a big-stage performance, which echoed fellow left-arm fast bowler Amir's brutal three-in-a-row dismissal of Sharma, Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan at the 2017 Champions Trophy final.
Shaheen is one of eight brothers who grew up in the Khyber Pass on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. One of those brothers Riaz — who played a single Test for Pakistan — inspired a passion for fast bowling.
"He (Riaz) keeps in touch over the telephone even when I am on tour. He is my first coach after all," Shaheen told the ICC in an interview.
Shaheen Shah Afridi (L) and team captain Babar Azam celebrate after the dismissal of KL Rahul (not pictured). AFP
Graduating from the Under-19 World Cup in 2018, Shaheen made a headline-grabbing first class debut, taking 8-39 in the Pakistan domestic tournament.
He was picked for the Lahore Qalandars in the 2018 Pakistan Super League where he first faced his namesake, Shahid Afridi.
Shaheen Afridi celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Virat Kohli. Reuters
"He hit me for six first ball in the PSL, but with the next one I got him out. I was very happy about that," he told cricinfo.com. Shaheen made his Test debut in a defeat against New Zealand in December 2018.
But he has now played 19 Tests, taking 76 wickets at an impressive average of a shade over 25 with a best match haul of 10-94 against the West Indies this year.
Proving to be a master of all formats, Shaheen took 6-35 against Bangladesh in the 2019 50-over World Cup.
In franchise cricket, he picked up 6-19, including four wickets in four balls, playing for Hampshire in a T20 game against Middlesex last year. Not surprisingly, Middlesex have snapped him up for a large part of the 2022 English county season.
"Shaheen is a world-class pace bowler and a genuine match winner," said Middlesex chief executive, Andrew Cornish.
Pakistan made a light work of the modest total to break their losing jinx against India after 12 failed attempts in the showpiece events. Prior to this match, India had defeated Pakistan in all 12 World Cup matches .
"It is the most sought after rivalry in cricket and I never miss these games," Himanshu Desai, who has flown in from Harrow in England to watch the game in person, told AFP.
Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam and his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli have called it just another game, but that is clearly not the case.
Hayyan humbles rivals in thrilling opening race Hayyan, ridden by Oscar Chavez, in the silks of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed’s Yas Racing, dominated the opening race of the Dubai World Cup — Kahayla Classic.
Sheikh Mohammed said in a welcoming speech to the official booklet of the tournament: "We are pleased to welcome our honourable guests participating in the twenty-seventh launch of the Dubai World Cup. This global event that embodies within it the noble values of equestrian and its knights who come from all countries of the world to compete for the precious titles in the evening."
Held under the theme ‘Limitless Abilities’ and organized by the Dubai Sports Council (DSC), the NAS Sports Tournament is the biggest event of its kind in terms of participation and prize money, and has been held every year in the Holy Month of Ramadan since 2013 at the iconic Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex.
The first hosting of the iconic community event since 2019, the Zayed Sports Tournament 2023 invites the UAE’s finest sporting talents and teams to showcase their skills and compete for an incredible Dhs184,000 in prize money.