Walk the streets of Pakistan and India, and ask people how old Shahid Afridi is - nine out of ten will say either 24 or 27. It's as if he hasn't grown old for cricket's ardent followers. And it's not just the looks, but also his game that makes him seem much younger than 34.
But, critics keep reminding him that many players of his age have retired, while he is still doing the rounds with average performances and a good share of controversies.
Afridi himself, however, never shared the critics' thoughts. He played at his own will and fancy, and would like to leave the way he played.
"I will sideline myself, the moment I start thinking that I'm becoming a burden on my team," Afridi said. "I will not let anyone an opportunity to talk. As long as I'm fit and give my life to cricket, I'll continue playing the sport.
"I want to give something to my country with my performance. There is no such thing that you will score runs with the bat every day. I've given my focus to bowling as well. I want to get myself ready in such a way that I deliver to the team, be it in batting or bowling."
Two things haven't changed about Afridi since the day he debuted at the age of 16 - attacking cricket and inconsistency. He is custom-made for power hitting with an unparalleled strike rate. He gave a glimpse of his ability in the recent two matches against India [34 of 18] and Bangladesh [59 of 25] pulling his team out of tense situations and giving it an Afridi touch to take Pakistan to the Asia Cup finals against Sri Lanka.
"There are many reasons that I won't like to rate them," Afridi said when asked to rate his timely knocks in the Asia Cup 2014. "But both of them were very important for me as well as for the country."
Afridi has gone on record saying he needs no coach or mentoring at the level of cricket he's playing.
"As I've said earlier also, having played at this level for so many years, I don't need a coach," Afridi admitted frankly. "Mein apna coach behter hoon (I am better off coaching myself). I know what to do and what not to do. It's about having the right people to back you and support you."
A win in the Asia Cup would give Pakistan the much needed confidence and momentum, before the upcoming World T20 in Bangladesh.
He himself was the player of the tournament in the inaugural World T20 in 2007 and has brought success to Pakistan leading the side in claiming the title two years later.
"The World Twenty20 is coming up after this," Afridi said. "I think we peaked at the right time, that was the requirement."
There's another important series on everyone's mind right now - the 2015 world cup jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia. Pakistan has only one world cup win to their credit, which came in the year 1992 that was incidentally won in Australia.
"There's a lot of time to go for 2015," Afridi added. "We have a lot of big series coming up. The management is supporting, if we continue to have the right kind of combination, and with God's blessings, we hope to win the World Cup."
(Edited by Vanilla Sharma)