Shaheen Afridi: The leading wicket-taker in the World Cup 2023?

Shaheen Afridi

The ICC world cup 2023 is near and cricket fans around the world are eagerly waiting for it to begin.

With the global cricket event on the horizon, cricket experts are taking the stage to predict the standout teams and players in the upcoming ODI World Cup. Many seasoned voices from the cricket fraternity have weighed in with their projections for the multi-team competition.

One of them is former West Indies captain and batting legend Sir Vivian Richards, who has picked Pakistan’s pace sensation Shaheen Afridi as his top choice for the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup 2023.

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Who is Shaheen Afridi?

Shaheen Afridi is a young and talented fast bowler from Pakistan, who has been making waves in the international cricket scene with his pace, swing and accuracy. He is Pakistan’s lead bowler across formats and has been consistently delivering match-winning performances for his team.

Shaheen made his international debut in 2018 and has since become a vital cog in Pakistan’s bowling attack. He has so far featured in 27 Tests, 39 ODIs and 52 T20Is, claiming 105, 76 and 64 wickets respectively. He is currently ranked seventh in the ICC ODI bowlers rankings and ninth in the ICC T20I bowlers rankings.

Why did Viv Richards pick Shaheen as the leading wicket-taker?

In a video on ICC’s official Instagram handle, Richards picked Shaheen to finish as the leading wicket-taker at the Cricket World Cup 2023. Explaining the reasons behind his choice, he said:

“The leading wicket-taker in the World Cup will be Shaheen Afridi because I have seen him in Pakistan. I spent some time in the PSL and I have seen his massive growth. [He is a] highly determined individual. He is my man.”

Richards was referring to his stint as a mentor for Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2023, where he got to witness Shaheen’s skills and potential up close. Shaheen, who plays for Lahore Qalandars in the PSL, was one of the standout performers in the tournament with 18 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 16.61 and an economy rate of 7.18.

He was also instrumental in leading Lahore Qalandars to their maiden PSL title after a match-winning effort in the final against Quetta Gladiators. He took four wickets for 17 runs in four overs and was adjudged the man of the match as well as the best bowler of the tournament.

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How has Shaheen Afridi fared recently?

After spending a significant period on the sidelines due to a toe injury, Shaheen has been enjoying a good show since returning to action in August 2023. He was part of Pakistan’s squad for the ODI series against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka and finished as the leading wicket-taker with six wickets in three matches at an average of 16.33.

What are Shaheen Afridi’s strengths and weaknesses?

Shaheen is blessed with a tall frame (6 ft 6 inches) and a smooth action that allows him to generate pace and bounce from any surface. He also has the ability to swing the ball both ways and trouble the batsmen with his variations. He is especially lethal with the new ball, as he can exploit any movement or seam on offer.

He is also adept at bowling at different stages of an innings, as he can bowl tight spells in the middle overs and execute yorkers and slower balls at the death. He is also a handy lower-order batsman who can score some useful runs when needed.

However, Shaheen also has some areas that he needs to work on to become a more complete bowler. He sometimes tends to lose his line and length and concede too many extras or boundaries. He also needs to improve his fitness and stamina, as he has been prone to injuries and fatigue in his short career.

What are Shaheen’s chances of becoming the leading wicket-taker?

Shaheen Afridi has all the ingredients to become one of the best fast bowlers in world cricket and a potential match-winner for Pakistan in the World Cup 2023. He has the experience, the skill and the confidence to perform at the highest level and challenge any batting line-up in any condition.

However, he will also face stiff competition from other world-class bowlers who will be vying for the same honour. Some of the contenders for the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup 2023 are:

  • Jasprit Bumrah (India): Bumrah is a master of pace, accuracy and variation. He can bowl at any stage of an innings and has a knack of picking up crucial wickets. He has 121 wickets in 71 ODIs at an average of 31.43 and an economy rate of 4.65.
  • Trent Boult (New Zealand): The left-arm pacer is one of the most lethal swing bowlers in the world, especially with the new ball. He can make the ball talk in any condition and has a superb record in ODIs. He has 187 wickets in 99 ODIs at an average of 24.06 and an economy rate of 5.09.
  • Kagiso Rabada (South Africa): The young speedster is one of the fastest and most aggressive bowlers in the world, who can intimidate any batsman with his pace and bounce. He has a knack of taking wickets in clusters and has a brilliant record in ODIs. He has 137 wickets in 87 ODIs at an average of 27.34 and an economy rate of 5.09.
  • Mitchell Starc (Australia): The left-arm pacer is one of the most feared bowlers in world cricket, who can bowl at speeds of over 150 kmph and deliver deadly yorkers at will. He was the leading wicket-taker in the last two editions of the World Cup (2015 and 2019) and has a phenomenal record in ODIs. He has 219 wickets in 110 ODIs at an average of 22.12 and an economy rate of 5.01.

Shaheen Afridi will have to overcome these challenges and prove his mettle on the biggest stage of cricket if he wants to fulfill Richards’ prediction and become the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup 2023. He will also have to cope with the pressure and expectations of millions of Pakistan fans who will be hoping for him to lead their team to glory.

Shaheen Afridi has shown that he has the talent and the temperament to shine on any platform and any occasion. He has already made a name for himself as one of the best fast bowlers in the world and he will be eager to add another feather to his cap by becoming the leading wicket-taker in the World Cup 2023.

Will he be able to do it? Only time will tell.

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