People raise doubts about him due to his non-existant footwork(not true really and i will explain why) and many write him off as a slogger.Others who are a bit more cognizant of Afridi's records write him off as a disaster waiting to happen as he eventually runs outta form.
So why is Afridi so successful ?
Well for one, footwork is misunderstood in cricket by many people and i might do well to point out that many successful players didnt have excellent 'ballet dancer' footwork- Viv Richards for one...he certainly was no leadfooted wonder but he wasnt a footwork mafia to the extent of a Dravid, Lara,Gavaskar or Greg Chappell.
Steve Waugh had less than worldclass footwork and Gordon Greenidge wasnt known for his footwork either.... Afridi is probably the extreme case example and the impatient ones must be dying to pop the question 'why is he so successful ?'
Well the reason is simple yet subtle.
The question one must ask is, what is one trying to achieve with footwork and the answer immediately becomes clearer.
As a test batsman, your objective is to be in control of your shots and put em where you want to. Failing to do that, you dont give your wicket away. Inorder to do that, you need to have a few crucial components aside from 'technique'. A big heart for one, judicious shot-selection for two and excellent timing for three.
Anyone who's watched Afridi for a long period of time will admit that Afridi has all three by heaps. He has the guts required to bat at the highest level and he doesnt shy away from any bowler- not even the great Hoggard or Harmison. This is not a question about his success but a question about his attitude. Timing and shot selection of his are top notch too.
But enough about the 'other stuff' !! Before the 'technique' mafia puts a gun to my head, i will go straight to the issue of technique.
The biggest 'physical' thing you need to be accomplishing inorder to have control over your shots is to have excellent balance during point of contact. That is critical and essential.
Afridi has this- he rarely reaches for the ball and rarely is he over/underbalanced for a shot. He accomplishes this by playing late and making deft wrist adjustments at the last second. And that he accomplishes extremely well due to his brilliantly quick eye. Afridi to me, seems to have one of the quickest eyes ever to play test cricket. He plays the ball very very late and is almost one of the 'latest' players of the ball.
He plays the ball 'under his nose', that is, his point of contact is almost directly under his nose and that is the optimal place for controlling your shots. It also is a product of his superb eye and hand-eye co-ordination.
Inorder to play the ball with great balance consistently, you absolutely must do one thing footwork-wise: you MUST get to the pitch of the ball. Afridi does this by plonking his left foot down and he guages the pitch of the ball excellently.
Perhaps the second biggest physical thing to batting consistency is playing with a 'still head'. That is, your head must be as still as possible during the point of contact. And after watching Afridi for a while, i've come to the conclusion that his head is the stillest of them all playing cricket today- yes, even 'stiller' than Tendulkar, Dravid,Ponting,lara, etc.
In the replays you will see a lil movement of the head sometimes amongst these great players. But with Afridi, almost always i see a head that is 'deadset still'.
Some of the 'master technicians' of the past wernt too good at this aspect, leading to bouts of inconsistency. Carl Hooper and Rahul Dravid are two examples.
As we are on the topic of technique, another thing i notice in Afridi is that he plays with an extremely straight bat and when he does go across the line, his bat angle is almost perpendicular to the trajectory of the ball. This is essential in 'technique' and is a forte of almost all the great batmsen.
You see, all that is essential is your balance during point of contact. Most people achieve this through footwork- to get their body into position and perfect balance for the proper execution of the shot. Afridi however, completely eschews this modus operandi but achieves exactly the same results- he achieves perfect balance during point of contact with brilliant hand-eye coordination alongside a pair of one-in-a-million eyes.
One more thing Afridi has is soft hands. I've seen him use 'soft hands' many times when he edges ball and as a result it often drops just a bit short of the slip cordon.
That is the critical difference between Afridi and a 'pure slogger' like Sehwag... Sehwag doesnt play the ball under his nose and infact plays it earlier than many people. As a result, he is reaching for the ball and is often overbalanced during shot-execution. Another thing in a 'pure slogger' like Sehwag you'd find is that he doesnt know the concept of soft hands. He grips the bat like a vice and his wrists are almost never soft nomatter how he has hit the ball.
Ofcourse, nevermind the fact that his shot-selection is one of the poorest.
And this is why i think Afridi is likely to be of the greatest batsmen ever to play test cricket: he achieves everything balance-wise and poise-wise as a master technician achieves through excellent hand-eye coordination and brilliant eyes. Along with that, he does the other things right- shot selection, attitude, timing, etc