Shaheen Afridi: Imran Khan suggested I become Lahore Qalandars captain

Shaheen Afridi: Imran Khan suggested I become Lahore Qalandars captain

In just two years, Shaheen Shah Afridi has emerged as the most successful captain in the history of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Surprisingly, Afridi admits he never had a desire for captaincy until a pivotal meeting at the Prime Minister's office altered his perspective.

"Prior to my appointment, I had very little experience as a captain, perhaps only once at the Under-19 level," Shaheen told ESPNcricinfo. "Captaincy wasn't something I actively pursued. However, in 2021, during a meeting at the PM office with Sameen bhai [Lahore Qalandars owner] and Aqib Javed, Imran Khan [then Prime Minister of Pakistan] suggested I take on the role. You can't refuse Imran bhai. So, I became the captain of Lahore. Initially, I was the vice-captain, but when Imran bhai endorsed me for the captaincy, everything changed."

When Shaheen assumed captaincy of Lahore Qalandars, they were considered one of the weakest franchises in the PSL, consistently finishing at the bottom in previous seasons. However, under Afridi's leadership, there was a remarkable turnaround. Qalandars clinched the title in 2022 and went on to defend it successfully in 2023, becoming the first team in PSL history to achieve this feat.

Shaheen shared that he visited Imran Khan after Qalandars' first title win. "After winning the title in 2022, I went to meet Imran bhai and expressed gratitude for his faith in me. That's when my interest in captaincy began. Imran bhai highlighted that many great fast bowlers have excelled as captains because they possess the authority to set fields and understand the needs of fellow fast bowlers. His insights were invaluable to me, and I credit him entirely for it."

Imran Khan's own success as a fast-bowling captain in the 1980s, leading Pakistan to become the second-best Test side globally and winning the 1992 ODI World Cup, serves as inspiration for Afridi's aspirations.

Now, Afridi has the opportunity to make history by leading Lahore Qalandars to a third consecutive PSL title. However, their preparations were shaken when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced the termination of Haris Rauf's central contract due to his unavailability for Pakistan's Test series in Australia. Afridi expressed hope that the PCB would reconsider the timing of their decision, considering the upcoming match.

"I don't have much to say about the PCB's decision," Afridi remarked. "But the timing is unfortunate, especially with a match scheduled so soon. Haris is mentally strong, and I believe this setback won't affect him. Hopefully, the PCB will realize the timing of their decision was inappropriate. Haris is ready to represent Pakistan whenever called upon."

Despite the setback, Afridi remains optimistic about Lahore Qalandars' chances of securing a third consecutive title. "We've won twice, so why not aim for a third victory?" he confidently stated.