Mention cricket legends, and all but the most dedicated students of the sport’s history tend to think to the era in which they were impressionable youngsters with adored sporting heroes. Today’s teenagers might cite Steve Smith and Virat Kohli, while those cutting their teeth 10 or 20 years ago would say Tendulkar, Warne or Pietersen.
Yet there is one name that transcends the years. Everyone has heard of The Don. Bradman dominated the game like no other batsman in history – not even Lara, Tendulkar or Ponting in their pomp could come close to his astonishing test average of 99.94, or his first class average of 95.14. But a new challenger has emerged, from a most unlikely quarter.
Move over Smith and Root, there’s a new kid in town
It is well and good for the Australians, but to the rest of the world, cricket is looking just a little bit formulaic at present. Despite the usual hype leading into the last Ashes series, those who rushed online with their Ashes promo code, hoping for England to beat the odds and earn them a Christmas bonus, walked away disappointed, and the natural order of things was resumed, with England looking like a team in stagnation.
Yet in the brave new world of Afghanistan, a fresh-faced cricketing hero has entered the scene, and if the stellar start to his career is anything to go by, Afghanistan’s Millennium Man could be just the shot in the arm that the sport needs.
Baheer Shah, the Afghan run machine
Strictly speaking, he is still Millennium Boy – born on 21 February 2000, the right-handed top-order batsman does not even turn 18 till next month. But with seven matches and twelve innings under his belt, the lad from Kunar is already averaging 121.77.
Playing for Speen Ghar Region in India’s Ahmad Shah Abdali First-class Trophy tournament, he has reached the unofficial threshold of 1,000 runs used by most statisticians to make his average “count” in the blink of an eye.
All the more incredible is the sheer weight of runs and the time he has spent out in the middle. On his debut against Amo Region, he scored 256, and he has passed 100 on four more occasions. As if that wasn’t enough, he even went on to beat that debut score, becoming the second youngest player ever to score a triple century, with 303 not out. For anyone wondering who beat him, it was none other than Pakistan legend Javed Miandad.
Speaking after the epic innings, fans were almost reminded of a young Alastair Cook, before the tribulations of all those Ashes maulings took their toll. Having batted for two full days, he described the experience as: “Very comfortable and very enjoyable.”
Putting Afghanistan back on the map?
Afghanistan has had its moments in cricketing history, but has struggled to challenge the top teams with any consistency. A talismanic talent at number three could be exactly what the team needs. Shah could find plenty of expectation on his shoulders, but from what he has shown so far, he will take it in his stride.