A 16-year-old Afridi was called up to the Pakistan ODI side as a replacement for injured Mushtaq Ahmed for the Kenya Cricket Association Centenary Tournament in 1996, which involved Kenya, Sri Lanka and South Africa as well.
Making his debut against Kenya, Afridi didn’t get the chance to bat even with Pakistan going six down, but with an encounter against Sri Lanka coming up next, the team management decided to promote him – following a eye-catching net session – to counter the destructive opening pair of Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana.
Afridi walked in at No.3 with Pakistan batting first and slammed a 40-ball-102, a knock laced with six fours and 11 sixes, to cement his spot in the Pakistan top order. He completed his century in just 37 deliveries, the fastest ODI century at the time, before Corey Anderson overtook him 18 years later in 2014.
“Shahid Afridi had debuted in Nairobi in 1996,” Mahmood said, “after the Sahara Cup, where I made my debut. So Mushi [Mushtaq Ahmed] got injured in that series and Shahid Afridi was touring with the Pakistan A team to West Indies and he replaced Mushi in that tournament.
“In those days, the two Sri Lankan openers, Jayasuriya and wicketkeeper Kaluwitharana, they used to attack upfront. So we thought we need someone who can bat at No.3. Afridi and I – Wasim said you guys go and try to slog [in the nets]. I was slogging sensibly and Afridi went against the spinners, murdering everyone in the nets.
“Next day, we got the game against Sri Lanka and they said he [Afridi] is batting at number three. I think Waqar [Younis] got a bat from Sachin [Tendulkar], he used the great Sachin’s bat and managed to get a hundred and after that, he became a batsman. Mainly he was a bowler who can hit the ball, but in the end, he had a wonderful career.
“Especially that World Cup, 2011, he led the side very well, he was in the best of his form, he was bowling really well. He learned a delivery from the great Abdul Qadir – the ball that drifts in and hits your pads. So that was a great World Cup [for him] and he was batting great as well. Overall, it was a great World Cup for Pakistan, unfortunately, we lost to India but Shahid Afridi was a great asset for Pakistan.”