Long before Virender Sehwag revolutionised the role of an opener in Test cricket, former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram believes it was in fact Shahid Afridi, who changed the dynamic of opening in Tests. Also Read - International Day of Yoga 2021: Virender Sehwag to Suresh Raina, How Indian Cricketers Celebrated
Sehwag opened for the first time in 2002 and went on to become one of the most feared openers scoring two triple centuries, while Afridi started his Test career as an opener in 1998 and just months later, scored a hundred against India at Chennai to mark his arrival in the format. Also Read - IND vs ENG: R Sridhar Praises Shafali Verma, Finds Shades of " Virender Sehwag"; Lauds 'Bristol' Pitch
“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,” Akram said on his YouTube channel. Also Read - Virender Sehwag Credits Bowlers For India's Rise in World Cricket, Backs Them to Outclass New Zealand in WTC Final 2021
In his maiden Test against Australia in Karachi, Afridi scored just 10 and 6, and Wasim revealed how not many in the team or the selection committee were eager to have him on board for the tour of India. Wasim them sought advice from the great Imran Khan, Pakistan’s World Cup winning captain, who gave a thumbs up for Afridi’s selection.
Afridi repaid the faith scoring a belligerent 141 in his second Test, with 21 fours and three sixes, against an attack comprising Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble helping Pakistan to a 12-run win and a 1-0 lead.
“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,” Wasim said.
“What a knock it was on that Chennai track. Afridi used to dance down the track and hit Kumble and Joshi for sixes.”
However, unlike Sehwag, Afridi could not sustain the momentum in Tests and ended up scoring 1973 runs from 27 matches.