KARACHI: Pakistan’s well-loved former cricket captain Shahid Afridi said on Saturday he had tested positive for coronavirus, as the pandemic accelerates across the country.

The 40-year-old all-rounder, known for towering sixes and distinctive celebrations after taking a wicket as a bowler, revealed his illness on Twitter.

“I’ve been feeling unwell since Thursday; my body had been aching badly.

I’ve been tested and unfortunately I’m covid positive,” Afridi said.

“Need prayers for a speedy recovery, Inshallah (God willing),” added Afridi, who still has a huge global fan base.

His 22-year Pakistan career took off when he smashed a 37-ball hundred in only his second one-day international, against Sri Lanka in Nairobi in 1996.

Afridi still holds the record for the most sixes in one-day internationals, hitting 351 in 398 matches.

Since retiring from international cricket two years ago, Afridi has been active in charity work through his own foundation.

He has been providing food donations to people in remote areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces hit by the impact of the virus and the lockdown.

“I am happy to serve my people but I am doing all precautions with mask and disinfection so it’s a risk worth taking,” he told AFP last week.

“These are very hard times on humanity across the world...” The Pakistan Cricket Board and fellow former players were quick to offer their support to Afridi.

“Brother your services to our homeland especially in the last few months are forever etched in our hearts,” tweeted long time team-mate Shoaib Malik.

“We all know the fighter that you are, sending all the prayers possible, wish you a speedy recovery and good health.” Another former team-mate Mohammad Hafeez described Afridi as a “fighter by nature” in a message of support.

Meanwhile Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq wished Afridi a speedy recovery during a conference call ahead of a tour of England set to start in August.

“My prayers are with him, all well wishes with him that he gets out of this soon,” he said.

“I think he was doing a lot of work in the area of Balochistan and the northern areas just to help the people. Throughout the Covid situation he was helping the poor, doing a very good job.” Supporters have also rallied round Afridi on social media.

“You have faced many challenges in cricket and we have seen you come out on top and this virus is no different, smash it out of the park and get well soon,” tweeted one fan.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2020

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