One fateful decision by the Saeed Anwer-led Pakistan outfit to send pinch-hitter Shahid Afridi at one-down at Gymkhana Club, Nairobi, in October 1996, completely changed the contours of Pakistani cricket. The leg-spinning all-rounder smashed the world’s fastest century in the one-day international cricket series in only his second ODI, in a bonanza of ferocious hitting against then-world champions Sri Lanka, as the world watched in awe.

There onwards began a love-hate relationship of Pakistanis with Shahid Afridi, who could be a fantastic entertainer on his day, but generally a major disappointment more often than not. Among batsmen who have scored 8000 runs in ODIs, he is the slowest one to do so, with a meagre average of 23.58. Moreover, he possesses the worst batting average of 23.95, among players having scored a minimum of 10,000 runs across all formats in international cricket. Afridi supporters, smitten by his stardom and shampoo ads, claim that his quick-fire cameos could significantly alter the direction of matches, turning lost causes into potential victories, and are willing to oversee the mindless shot-selection and lack of adaptiveness to different situational contexts.

By early 2010/11, when the Misbah-ul-Haq/Younis Khan renaissance was in full swing as Pakistan found a stable middle order setting after a long time, a large majority of cricket viewers found their styles to be too boring and myopically labelled them “Tuk Tuk,” preferring the all-action Afridi approach. Shahid Afridi became the face of Pakistani cricket, adorning advertisements and boosting TV ratings, but also dangerously altering cricketing values.

I live in front of a public park where cricket is obviously the most popular sport. 90-95 percent of the batsmen do not possess proper batting technique and will try to hit a six off every ball, while the playing format is also limited generally to an over or two, and only the batsmen who hit the longest sixes achieve legend-like status. These problems get directly translated onto the international stage where Pakistani outfits now struggle to pace their innings by rotating the strike, are regarded as one of the worst chasers, and find it extremely difficult to adjust to swinging conditions in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The current generations might not be able to appreciate the doggedness of Javed Miandad or the flamboyant wrist-work of Zaheer Abbass, as it seems like an alien way of playing cricket to them. Too primitive, too out-dated. And this “Afridisation” syndrome is not restricted to just batting approaches.

The “Afridisation” cancer has permeated through Pakistani politics. When Imran Khan made “ridding Pakistan of corruption in 90 days,” his 2013 General Election campaign slogan. and the urban middle classes were smitten by the idea, the syndrome was at play. Without zero understanding of the institutional and cultural roadblocks that would deem such an eventuality impossible to operationalise in a decade, let alone in 90 days, the masses were ready to fall for a demagogue’s opportunistic claim just because his “intentions” were right. Afridi would attempt to hit a six every second ball, but most of those premeditated strikes would end up looking ugly as top-edges which would be caught within the 30-yard circle. Imran Khan also wanted to give the Police department to the Local Government in 2013, and then backtracked after some experts explained to him what a ludicrous idea that was; clean bowled off a full-toss, pretty much. Through incessant social media marketing and television coverage, the PTI seems to have convinced everyone that the biggest vice in Pakistan is merely the “financial corruption of elite politicians in the opposition.” While in reality, bigger issues might lie elsewhere, and the PTI leadership have no broader ideological convictions which can cover the vast spectrum of challenges faced by the political system. Retrieving stolen money is a catchy endeavour; solving ethnic, sectarian and linguistic grievances that require more fundamental reforms and restructuring of the social order, and might take decades to resolve, is rather unattractive, in comparison.

When Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claims that the government is going to announce “one million” jobs within the next two weeks, it reeks of Afridisation. Scarce resources, a dangerously expanding youth bulge, low levels of literacy and unemployment are stark realities in the Pakistani political context. At least Afridi won us some matches, this one is a sure-shot impossibility. Who is writing the scripts for these guys?

The Supreme Court Dam fund also requires an honourable mention within the Afridisation syndrome lens. Crowdfunding large scale dams is a mammoth task, any expert would tell you. Only 10% of the required funds for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam have been collected, and English daily did the math to suggest that more money had been waived off by advertisers than collected through volunteer funds. It would take 35-40 years at the going rate for the dam to finish through crowdsourcing. Post-retirement, the ex-Chief Justice sheepishly claimed in a public conference, that the purpose of the Dam Fund was to merely create “awareness.”

The Afridisation syndrome can also be observed on an individual level. Mantras like “Get rich, or die trying’” and “Get rich fast!” are increasingly becoming the prime movers of individual consciences. It seems like most youngsters want to strike a material jackpot, and are not willing to settle for a slower, long-term, incremental process of growth and ensuing stability, which also includes non-material advances. In popular understanding, and largely caused by the sensationalist narratives of popular politicians, every government officer is supposed to be “corrupt.” If this were true in practical reality, the state would crumble in a matter of days. But we are increasingly settling for ridiculous one-size-fits-all styled explanations of our social reality, which then become lousy justifications for own dishonest behaviours and selfish mannerisms. It goes without saying that rooted at the base of this new-found hatred for corruption lies an intense fascination with wanting material ascendancy in a competitive world where economic imperatives often trump moral concerns, especially among the rising urban middle classes. But their ire it seems is largely restricted to financial corruption only, while they refuse to engage with the broader construct of “moral corruption.” Maybe that could open personal cans of worms if processes of self-introspection were undertaken? Metaphorical sixer-hitting, it seems, will suffice, in the time being, leading to largely self-defeating results, as was the case with a certain Shahid Khan Afridi.