Shaheen Shah Afridi during practice. File photo
Shaheen Shah Afridi will stage a comeback to competitive cricket after three months out with a freak knee injury to lead defending champions Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League, beginning from Monday.
Afridi led Lahore to its maiden PSL title last year in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 tournament that has once again attracted several foreign T20 specialists in a six-team event also featuring two-time champions Islamabad United and past winners Multan Sultans, Karachi Kings, Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi.
Afridi, the lanky left-arm fast bowler, has been Pakistan’s bowling mainstay for the last five years since making his international debut in 2018. But a knee injury during the final of the T20 World Cup against England saw him undergo a long strenuous rehabilitation program before finally getting ready for the PSL.
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“There were times when I wanted to give up,” Afridi said. “I was working on only one muscle and it was not improving. Often during the rehabilitation sessions, I used to say to myself ‘this is enough, I cannot do this anymore.’”
Afridi used to watch his bowling videos on YouTube to keep himself motivated and ‘push a little more’ but was frustrated to miss international cricket because of injury.
In Afridi’s absence England whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in the test series during its historic comeback tour to Pakistan last December, while New Zealand twice came close to beating Pakistan in the drawn two-test series.
Afridi, who has a tendency of picking up wickets in the batting powerplay, has taken 70 wickets since making his PSL debut during the third edition of the tournament in 2018. He is third behind his countrymen Wahab Riaz (103), who is the only bowler in the PSL history with over 100 wickets, and Hasan Ali (81).
“PSL is one of the best leagues in the world and the quality of cricket tests you as a bowler,” Afridi said. “I am very excited to be making my comeback here … I am ticking both the bowling workload and fitness requirement boxes.”