When it comes to taking the new ball on in Test cricket as an opener, not many did the job better than Virender Sehwag. The former India opener was renowned for his attacking style at the top of the order that gave sleepless nights to many top fast bowlers in his era. Australia’s David Warner, who plays in similar style in red-ball cricket, credited Sehwag for instilling confidence in him. But former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram believes it was not Sehwag who redefined opening in Test cricket.
Lauding former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi for his attacking batting at the start of his career, Akram said it was Afridi who changed the mindset of opening in Test cricket.
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“In Test cricket, Sehwag came later but in 1999-2000 Shahid Afridi changed the mindset of opening in Test cricket. Even if I was the bowler I would know that I can get him out but also know that he can hit me for boundaries. He used to hit lose deliveries for sixes at will,” said Akram while chatting with Afridi on a Youtube chat show.
Afridi made his debut as an opener in Test cricket against Australia in 1998. But the attacking batsman made his name as a Test batsman in Pakistan’s tour to India in 1999-2000. Akram revealed that Afridi was not supposed to be a part of that touring Pakistan side in 1999 but he went against the selectors, trusting his gut feel and Imran Khan’s suggestion.
“I called Imran Khan before the tour selection. I told him ‘skipper I want to take Shahid Afridi on tour but a few selectors were against it. He told me ‘You should definitely take him, he will win a 1-2 Test matches and make him open the batting.’ I generally discussed a lot with Imran, sometimes before the tour, sometimes during the tour and his suggestions always came in handy,” Akram said.
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Afridi repaid Akram’s faith and scored his maiden Test century (141) in the first Test at Chennai to help Pakistan take a 1-0 lead. “What a knock it was on that Chennai track. Afridi used to dance down the track and hit Kumble and Joshi for sixes,” Akram said recalling that Test match.
Pakistan ended up winning that Test series 2-1.Afridi’s Test career, however, did not take flight as he only managed to play 27 Test matches for Pakistan. But he was a stalwart in limited overs cricket, representing Pakistan in 398 ODIs and 99 T20Is.