For the longest time, Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi has been the subject of myriad jokes related to his age. Hiding their real date of birth has become a very common trait of Pakistani cricketers, something that is accepted even by former players. But Afridi's eternal youth became ever more prominent since he is supposed to have made his debut at a precociously early age and scored a century in 37 balls when just 16.
The truth, according to Afridi
But now the popular but also controversial all-rounder has decided to set the record straight by revealing his age himself. The disclosure comes in his autobiography 'Game Changer' where he candidly accepts that the officially stated year of his birth – 1980 – isn't when he was actually born. According to the former Pakistan captain, that event occurred five years earlier in 1975.
The blame, though, lies squarely at the feet of authorities, if one goes by the retired cricketer's account. "For the record, I was 19, and not just 16 like they claim. I was born in 1975. So, yes, the authorities stated my age incorrectly," says the 27-Test veteran in his book, according to ESPNCricinfo.
More questions emerge
But even here, the man dubbed as 'Boom Boom Afridi' has left his fans and observers confused. The man hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa says that he was 19-years old while creating a world record for fastest ODI hundred in 1996. But if his real year of birth is 1975, as he announces, then he should have been 20 or 21-years old at that time.
But then again, there has always been a streak of erratic behaviour in the former opening batsman. Whether it was literally chewing a ball in full sights of the camera during an ODI in Australia or describing Indians as 'small-hearted' in a television interview. It is hard to imagine the cricketer who played nearly 400 ODIs to be always absolutely crystal clear. At least we now know that the suspicions aroused by his everlasting youth had substance.
It is always been the worst-kept secret that in Pakistan, and to some extent in India also, players declare themselves younger than they actually are. This helps them get selected in the youth squads and increase their chances of making progress. But Afridi was the one in whose case, the discrepancy seemed most apparent. We can accept some more humourous takes on him in days to come.