Shahid Afridi, you know, isn’t one for subtlety, while playing cricket or operating off the field.
I remember how, among a roomful of people during an internet chat session, he flirted with embarrassing candour with the prettiest girl in the room. That, we thought, was harmless, and even mildly amusing, because he had about 20 people around him. The presence of spectators took the sting out of it.
But it seems Afridi, after nearly 14 years in international cricket though just shy of 30 years, isn’t above committing indiscretions before thousands of spectators either, right in the middle of a cricket field, with 25 cameras on him, showing his images to millions around the world on a Sunday evening.
It was surely the daftest, most comical thing ever done on a cricket field – and probably the second most infamous bite in the history of sport after Mike Tyson’s attack on Evander Holyfield in 1997. Biting the cricket ball – a commendable feat from a dental standpoint, it must be admitted – isn’t the done thing, and Afridi knows it well. His team-mates, after all, have been under the greatest scrutiny over the years due to allegations that they tamper with the ball to help their remarkable swing bowlers.
Afridi, when he bit the ball during the One-day match against Australia, thus did his team great disservice. The question will be asked now: If the captain can actually go to the length of biting a cricket ball to make it swing more, what may the team do if they get an opportunity to do it surreptitiously? He also let down all those who had supported Pakistan in the aftermath of the Oval Test of 2006, which Pakistan forfeited after being accused of ball-tampering.
Pakistan, when Afridi tried to bite the “white cherry”, had a chance to win the game and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, an accurate swing bowler, was to bowl; Afridi tried to do his bit in the most stupid manner imaginable.
Daft though this action is, it can’t be condoned because of that reason – that it was so incredibly stupid. Stupidity can’t justify crime.
Caught in the act, Afridi’s first instinct was, of course, to lie – apparently, he said “I was just trying to smell it, [to see] how it is feeling”.
Later, after he’d had the time to look at the video of the incident, he confessed and apologised.
Interestingly, he also said that all teams in the world do it. "There is no team in the world that doesn't tamper with the ball,” he said. “My methods were wrong. I am embarrassed, I shouldn't have done it.”
Afridi, clearly, believes that ball-tampering, because it’s so widespread, is all right; and that his only offence was being caught, and that’s the only reason he’s embarrassed.
If he’s telling the truth, the International Cricket Council might want to investigate this offence and become more vigilant – though that may not be necessary for comically ostentatious offenders like Afridi.