Pakistan turn to 'crazy' captain
What do you do with a man whose stated aim is to be remembered as the
"craziest cricketer" ever to play for his country?
If you're most countries, you ask your press chief to have a quiet word in his ear. If you're Pakistan, you make him skipper.
First he would have to usurp Javed Miandad, who once brandished his bat at Dennis Lillee in the middle of a Test match; and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who reacted to being called a "potato" by an Indian fan with a megaphone by wading into the crowd and attempting to turn him into mash.
But Afridi's ultimate yardstick must be paceman Shoaib Akhtar, who has been banned for drugs (a ban subsequently lifted on appeal), banned for brawling with a team-mate, banned for ball-tampering, banned for bottle-throwing and banned for criticising his bosses during what you might euphemistically call a "turbulent" career.
Afridi (left) and new coach Waqar have the difficult task of uniting a splintered team in the Caribbean
The capricious Afridi is perhaps the only man who could skipper Pakistan side at the ICC World Twenty20, the driver of what on the surface resembles a clown car of a side, all square wheels and clanking gears, with bits hanging off and a horn that squirts water.
Last month, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) reacted to the disastrous tour of Australia, during which the tourists lost all nine matches, by meting out a rash of unprecedented penalties, including indefinite bans for veteran batsmen and former skippers Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan and one-year bans for all-rounder Shoaib Malik and pace bowler Rana Naved.
"This will go a long way to arrest the continuing decline of Pakistan cricket and improve the state of cricket in Pakistan," the PCB said in a statement, while recognising that banning influential all-rounder Afridi with the defence of their World Twenty20 title looming would have been throwing the baby, however great his potential for mischief, out with the bathwater.
In addition, legendary fast bowler Waqar Younis was appointed as coach, a man his former strike partner Wasim Akram calls a "hard taskmaster" who will "wield the stick to erring players".
Former captain Asif Iqbal agrees with Wasim's assessment, and believes that beneath the bonnet of Waqar's seemingly rag-tag outfit lurks an engine with some powerful components.
"If Pakistan are going to defend their crown the two outstanding players will likely be Afridi and Abdul Razzaq," Iqbal told BBC Sport. "Either as bowlers or batsmen they can change the course of the game, although they do have a problem with the loss of [fast bowler] Umar Gul."
Iqbal isn't talking in hypothetical terms, he seriously thinks Pakistan can make a mockery of the odds, something they have repeatedly managed to do down the years.
In 2009, they won the tournament in England not long after the terror attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, and in 2007 they finished runners-up months after their ill-fated 50-over World Cup campaign, during which they were embarrassed by Ireland before the death of coach Bob Woolmer put what had gone before into perspective.
"I couldn't pinpoint any particular reason why they perform under stress or in chaos," added Iqbal. "But if you look at the winning teams we've had in the past, including when Imran Khan led us to the [50 over] World Cup in 1992, we weren't in the equation before the tournaments and weren't given a chance.
"It doesn't seem to affect the players or the team whatever may be happening around them. They go out and perform. The way they started last year's tournament no-one ever dreamt they'd get to the semi-finals, let alone win it.
"We are ideally suited to Twenty20 cricket because the levels of concentration of our most talented players don't go much higher than that. We've got two exceptional cricketers [in Afridi and Razzaq] and it wouldn't surprise me if we won it, not at all."
Afridi's unbeaten half century saw Pakistan to victory over Sri Lanka in last year's final
Iqbal, in common with most former players, including Imran, believes the Pakistan Cricket Board was right in its draconian penalties following the tour of Australia, but also believes the board was to blame for the infighting and endemic lack of discipline in the first place.
"If the players were a bad influence then the board took the right decision, but more than the players, the management should take the responsibility," commented Iqbal.
"It is really sad and unfortunate to see that these highly talented cricketers are not being properly managed. There's not proper grooming of the talent they have. So on days when everything goes well they're amazing cricketers who can win a World Cup, but there are other days when they can lose in a fashion that looks so ugly.
"Nobody is above the game, if there's a player misbehaving and not adhering to the rules, he should be punished. But the board and management allow the cricketers to become bigger than the game and when these things happen they don't take action on the spot."
Iqbal is not the first former captain to suggest the PCB was too slow to take action - Wasim Akram said miscreants should be "sacked at once" - and most ex-players and close observers of Pakistan cricket believe the rot should have been treated half a decade ago, a couple of years after the imposing Inzamam took over as skipper.
Then again, perhaps the PCB has made a terrible mistake - look where a team riddled with rot can take you, to two major finals and one major crown.
As Iqbal noted with a knowing chuckle, "Pakistani cricket is far from ideal, but England haven't won a World Cup yet".