KARACHI: When Peshawar Zalmi owner Javed Afridi announced that all of the foreign players in his side will be featuring in the final in Lahore, Zalmi immediately won the hearts of many a cricket-starved fan in the country.
A few hours before the iconic match, skipper Darren Sammy announced on Twitter that all Peshawar players will shave their heads if they win; garnering even more goodwill for themselves as the tournament’s finest entertainers.
Then they went and won the Pakistan Super League in front of a packed screaming Gaddafi Stadium as Hasan Ali made a mess of Zulfiqar Babar’s stumps.
After the match, Sammy said it was more than a match, it was about bringing back the smiles on the faces of people of Peshawar and Pakistan.
Many across the country had a tear in their eyes, and the fondest of smiles on their lips, when he said that.
It was a good time to be a Peshawar Zalmi fan, it was an even better one to be a Peshawar Zalmi player — and a damned good time to be the boss of all those players. They were the champions of Pakistan; they were on top of the world.
Then on March 9, Javed Afridi happened. Speaking to The Express Tribune, the Peshawar owner claimed Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan had called him up personally and suggested a three-match series between his Indian Premier League side Kolkata Knight Riders and PSL champions Peshawar Zalmi. He made the same claim to several other publications and TV channels.
“The Kabul visit can play a role to bring peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said, while talking to The Express Tribune. “And if the series against KKR materialises, I am sure it can help in improving relations between the two countries as well.”
The support of both the Malala Yousufzais and the Nargis Fakhris of this world. The almost superhuman ability to convince cricket’s only two-time World T20 winning captain to play in a country exiled from international cricket. The owner of Pakistan’s best T20 franchise. And now, on his way to achieving peace in one of the world’s most volatile areas.
Javed Afridi, it seemed, had it all.
Unfortunately, it seems ‘all’ also includes the ability to lie with a straight face.
A few hours after the statement had made headlines across both sides of the Wagah Border, KKR took to their official Twitter account to categorically deny Afridi’s claim.
“KKR won’t be playing any unauthorised games/leagues as some false reports are claiming. No such communication happened from our end,” said the franchise on Twitter.
KKR CEO Venky Mysore decided to rub Afridi’s face even more in it. “I just had a word with Shah Rukh and he told me he has been so busy shooting these days that he didn’t even know that any such league was happening in Pakistan or Dubai, let alone calling any franchise owner and congratulating him on winning the tournament,” said Mysore while speaking to the Indian media.
So if the franchise is to be believed, Shah Rukh not only never called up Javed Afridi but he doesn’t even know Peshawar Zalmi won the PSL. Hell, he doesn’t even know what the PSL or Peshawar Zalmi are — albeit that last claim does seem a bit of a stretch considering the success of the league. From there it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to assume that Shah Rukh doesn’t even know Javed Afridi exists.
So what does the Peshawar owner do when he is called out on his claims. He heroically stops picking up anyone’s calls before even more heroically switching off his cell phone. A little while later, he decided to take to Twitter and go back on the claims he had so boldly made a few hours ago.
“We always welcome cricket for peace, but there is no truth about the KKR and Peshawar Zalmi matches, just speculations,” he said, before asking people to respect the game of cricket.
Javed Afridi has done a lot for cricket in this country — not to mention the heart-melting gestures of taking Army Public School victims and child patients at the Shaukat Khanum with his side to the UAE to watch the PSL — and it would be nice if we remember him for the good times, but so farcical is the nature of his most recent public actions that they may well go on to define his public persona for a while to come.
And so, just like that, in a matter of a few hours, Javed Afridi has gone from the man who convinced Sammy to play in Lahore to someone who made up a fib about a man who doesn’t even know he exists.
A remarkable fall from grace if ever there was one.