By Bad Seed
Full name Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi
Born March 1, 1980, Khyber Agency
Current age 27 years 360 days
Major teams Pakistan, Asia XI, Griqualand West, Habib Bank Limited, ICC World XI, Karachi, Leicestershire
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium, Legbreak googly
In cricket, Shahid Afridi is the maddest of mad maxes. A flamboyant allrounder introduced to international cricket as a 16-year-old legspinner, he surprised everyone but himself by pinch-hitting the fastest one-day hundred in his maiden innings. Afridi is a compulsive shot-maker and although until 2004 it was too often his undoing, causing him to float in and out of the team, a combination of maturity on and off the field and a sympathetic coach in Bob Woolmer, saw Afridi blossom into one of modern-day cricket's most dangerous players and a vital cog in Pakistan's revival in 2005. A string of incisive contributions from June 2004 culminated in a violent century against India in Kanpur in April 2005; remarkably it was the joint second fastest ODI century in terms of balls faced. A few weeks before, by smashing the joint second fastest Test half-century at Bangalore and taking crucial last day wickets, Afridi had helped Pakistan memorably level the Test series. So his year continued; a Test century against the West Indies and contributions against England at the end of the year. He went berserk against India on the flattest of pitches with two centuries, including a Test best 156 in January 2006. An Afridi virtuoso is laced with fearless lofted drives and short-arm jabs over midwicket. He is at his best when forcing straight and at his weakest pushing at the ball just outside off. The biggest improvement has been in Afridi's legspin; previously underrated, they are now integral in the ODI side and curiously effective at key moments in Tests. When the conditions are with him, he gets turn as well as some lazy drift, but his box of tricks is the key, boasting a vicious faster ball and a conventional off-spinner as well. His allround skills are completed by agile fielding and among the strongest arms in the game; he also possesses the firmest handshake in international cricket. Again he shocked everyone but himself when, after finally becoming a fixture in the Pakistan side, and a thrillingly bombastic one at that, he announced a temporary 'retirement' from Test cricket, citing an increasingly heavy playing schedule. To less surprise, he retracted his retirement two weeks later. Since then he has been dropped again from the Test team in England and his place in the ODI side has been in flux. He remains, though, an original and a dangerous one at that and in the absence of Inzamam, Yousuf and Razzaq, one of the senior-most players in the team.