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Which side will win the 2022/23 edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy?
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This week's Beyond The Boundary segment examines how Pakistani fans will cope with the first ICC event in over a decade, without Shahid Afridi!

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So Lala won't be playing in the 2013 Champions Trophy, a decision which Mushtaq Mohammad so aptly put it in his recent interview with PakPassion, is “completely justified.” It's hard to argue against that one, as Afridi looked in terrible bowling form in the ODIs against South Africa. The conditions were testing - he was bowling to good players of spin on flat pitches, but the lack of zip in his action and characteristic drift into the batsman was missing, as was his enthusiasm in the field. What's the point of an Afridi if he's lackluster?

The decision to drop him can easily be justified from a purely cricketing viewpoint. However, from a fan's perspective, as one of the many thousand Pakistan supporters who will be attending matches this summer and have done so for previous tours and tournaments, it is disappointing. 

Afridi offered us attendees something more, the opportunity to support something unique, something no other side has had, or will have. Coming out to cheers with Pakistan on 60/5 brought the fans at the ground together, instead of focusing on the terrible events that precluded his walk to the middle. The opposition fans may feel pleased with the score, but we lauded his walk out to the middle, drowning out the taunts.

Tendulkar is a better batsman than Afridi, as are Ricky Ponting and Kevin Pietersen, but did it matter when such facts were banded about by opposition fans? It didn't, because we didn't care and nor did Afridi. That detachment from cricketing logic allowed us to argue with reckless abandon, or even more likely ignore it completely - we couldn't be confined to pre-conceived parameters, the ultimate expression of pride in the unpredictability that is the hallmark of Pakistani cricket. It's part of our unique identity as fans attending the games. 

He's clearly not a man of the people, he'd no doubt much rather flog product, but during matches he will give fans a thumbs up every time he receives an ovation when fielding in the boundary – plenty of players don't - keeping our pride in tact against our counterparts. I also remember the 2009 World T20, when the chants of “Afridi Afridi” reverberated around the stadium, most notably at Trent Bridge during the semi-final against South Africa, no other side had anything remotely comparable. Neutrals were riveted. 

This argument, a fan's argument, cannot be condensed into an average or a strike rate and any subsequent discussions that emanate based on these mere condensation of scores would be missing the point completely. Love him or not, Afridi was our talisman, our go-to man for fans and that's what the argument boils down to. If you're watching on TV, you are not impacted by such considerations, you have no need to build a defence against the opposition fans.

As the Champions Trophy gets under way in a months time, whose name will we be chanting? Will we be forced into becoming the homogeneous cricket fans in an increasingly homogeneous sport?

 

Discuss!