x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

What's it like ... to captain Shahid Afridi

Nigel Fernandes, the captain of the Fly Emirates staff team, retells the matches he had the Pakistan all-rounder at his disposal.

Shahid Afridi is a born cricketer who gelled with our team straight away, even though we only met him the day before he played for us. He was lovely, and in no way was he an overpowering presence. The first time I met him was at the press conference we had the day before the tournament, then we had a small meeting where he met the rest of the team straight after. He just said a few words during team talks, basically sending a simple message which was to enjoy our cricket. It is what we always try to do, but sometimes you forget that it is so important.

We were playing against professional sides, England's Sussex and Surrey plus the Cape Cobras from South Africa, and he knew we were all part-time cricketers with jobs to go to. He made us feel comfortable, saying: "Enjoy your cricket, I know you are all good cricketers, so let's see what we can do." And the boys responded to that. I think they played really well, and gave two of the best sides in England a run for their money.

We have certainly learned more from it than any of the other sides. We ended up winning the event but the best thing was the experience we gained from it. When you play against a professional side, you have to raise your standards pretty quickly because they are so good. Even if you cannot match them you have to go up a level just to compete. It is a good job that the viewing at The Sevens ground is good for batsmen, because if you are only 20 yards away from Afridi when you are at the non-striker's end, it is obviously not the safest place to be. You have to watch out when he is hitting it because he hits it so hard.

We have a guy in our team, Amjad Javed, who is famous in UAE cricket for how hard he hits it. But he does not even come close to Afridi. One of the first shots he hit when he was playing for us went straight past a boundary fielder. He did not even have a chance to move. Even his forward defensives raced across the field. We like him. Nigel Fernandes is captain of the Fly Emirates staff team. Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan cricketer, made a guest appearance for them in last weekend's Emirates Airline Twenty20 tournament in Dubai.

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