Shaheen wants to emulate legend Akram
Teenager Shaheen Shah Afridi is ready to take centre stage.
Dubai - Shaheen was the most successful bowler in the 2017 U19 World Cup
Pakistan, the land of legendary fast bowlers, has just unearthed the newest pace bowling sensation - Shaheen Shah Afridi.
With 11 wickets, he was the most successful bowler in the 2017 U19 World Cup. Then his exploits in the Pakistan Super League eventually earned him a place in the senior team.
Shaheen, who has also impressed in the ongoing Asia Cup, hails from Landi Kotal, a town in Khyber Agency.
"Since my brother Riaz Afridi had represented Pakistan in Test cricket in 2004, I wanted to follow him and go a little further," Shaheen told Khaleej Times in a candid interview, narrating his journey from a humble town to international cricket.
"He (Riaz) has been an inspiration for me to reach this level. He helped me develop as a bowler and I always keep in touch with him even when I am playing abroad."
The 18-year-old Shaheen is the youngest of seven brothers. And most of his brothers played cricket at some level.
"My elder brother was playing for our school (Khyber Model School) in Landi Kotal and I was eager to join him but I was too young at that time. I used to force him to play cricket with me on holiday (Friday)," he said.
"Then the time came, I joined my brother in the school team and I was made captain later. Our team won the school tournament which opened the doors for me.
"I came to Peshawar, got selected for FATA team after the trials and performed at domestic level.
"It really changed the whole scenario and everybody was convinced that I had the potential to represent the national team.
"Soon I was selected for the under 16 team and toured Australia. It was a great learning experience for me."
The lanky fast bowler then thanked his regional coach Saqib Faqeer.
"I owe a lot to Saqib Faqeer for helping me develop as a bowler. During the under 16 camp, the coaches used to arrange some special sessions for me to hone my skills.
"Then I joined the National Cricket Academy at Gaddafi Stadium and former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed was a great help for me.
"After joining Lahore Qalandars, it was Aaqib Javed who taught me professionalism.
"All these people played a big role in my development as a player."
The shy teenager hopes to emulate the greatest left-arm fast bowler in history - Wasim Akram.
"Wasim Bhai is a legend and since childhood I wanted to follow him. It is impossible to be like him but I wish to follow in his footsteps. Waqar Younis is another bowler who is close to my heart and I hope to do what they have done for Pakistan."
His own bowling style has already earned him comparisons with Australian left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc.
"Starc is the best fast bowler in the world right now in my opinion. Yes, lot of people compare my bowling style with his since both of us are left-handers," he said.
"Of course, I follow him but I have my own style and identity!"