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Afridi capture boosts Royals ambition of retaining T20 crown
The news Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi is finally joining the Hampshire Royals, has been a long time in coming for the Rose Bowl faithful.
Afridi, 30, was due to be a part of the club’s winning T20 campaign in 2010 but international Test match commitments ended hopes of a summer stint on the south coast.
But the man commonly associated with the catchphrase ‘Boom Boom Afridi’ is now set to deliver his mercurial exploits to the Hampshire Royals for the whole of this season’s competition.
The Pakistan One-Day specialist, who is currently captaining his country in the ICC World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, will join up with his new Rose Bowl team mates in May.
Afridi follows compatriot Imran Tahir, as the club’s second permitted overseas signing eligible to play in Hampshire’s defence of the T20 title - which they won so dramatically in August on home turf against Somerset.
The acquisition of the flamboyant middle-order player will add attacking prowess to the Royals batting contingent, as well as unorthodox leg spin in the bowling department.
Quite how the improbable talent will fit into Giles Whites already talented T20 side is a difficult equation, though.
With the likes of Sean Ervine and Neil McKenzie recently penning new contracts at the club, the imminent return of Dimitri Mascarenhas to the first team fold and the club’s boastful list of young, emerging talent already firmly in the first XI picture – competition for places in all forms of domestic cricket this summer is set to be fierce.
The Hampshire squad are due to travel to Barbados soon for pre-season training ahead of the county cricket season’s big kick off in early April, in what is a chance for members of the squad to stake their claim for a first team berth.
The experienced Afridi has been a mainstay in Pakistani cricket for much of the last decade and his presence should be a real asset to the Royals.
Afridi is already familiar with the Rose Bowl, having played at the venue during Pakistan’s ill-fated tour of England last summer and the all-rounder knows the English domestic cricket scene inside out.
The crowd favourite has already donned the jerseys of the likes of the Marylebone Cricket Club, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Kent during a career spanning sixteen years.
The Khyber Agency born player’s explosive character make him unpredictable at best, but should he settle quickly at Hampshire, he could prove to be an inspired coup.
Whether or not his signing could disrupt coach Giles White’s collaborative team effort or stunt the development of a batch of promising, young cricketers coming through the ranks at the club is open to debate.
But if we see signs of a repeat of the hitting which took Afridi to the fastest recorded One-Day hundred in his maiden innings for his country and the form of which saw him named Player of the Tournament in the first World Twenty20 back in 2007, he shouldn’t disappoint the Rose Bowl crowd this summer.
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