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April 16, 2006
Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, says he will speak to Shahid Afridi about his surprising decision to skip Tests until after the World Cup in 2007. Afridi announced last week his intention to temporarily `retire' from Test match cricket due primarily to an increasingly heavy playing schedule.
Woolmer, in Abu Dhabi already for a coaching course, will talk to Afridi over the course of the two ODIs between India and Pakistan later this week. He told Cricinfo, "I would like to speak to Afridi in Abu Dhabi to discuss his decision. Naturally it is not for me to make comment regarding his announcement until I have had a chance to discuss this with him."
Though Afridi has constantly dismissed suggestions that his dropping from the second Test at Kandy had anything to do with his decision, speculation remains that there was more to the move than appeared immediately apparent. But Woolmer seemingly confirmed Afridi's assertion, saying, "I believe he has shown categorically that he can handle Test cricket and he has been an important member of our side. He gives the team an added dimension." Afridi had complained that too much cricket had taken its toll on him and that he wanted to spend some time with his family and concentrate solely on the World Cup.
Afridi had not spoken to the PCB about his plans, only informing Inzamam-ul-Haq of his decision. Inzamam has been non-committal, saying only that he would not like to create undue pressure on Afridi to do something he does not want to do at this stage.
Chatter from within the PCB suggests that officials plan to speak to Afridi in Abu Dhabi in an effort to, if not immediately reconsider, then at least think about it a little longer before making the decision final. "We will speak to him to see what his thinking is. It is a surprise to us but ultimately if he has made up his mind, then we cannot do much. You can drag a horse to water but you cannot make him drink it," said one.
Another official revealed that Afridi had been reluctant to go on the tour of Sri Lanka in the first place and had even requested that he be dropped from the Kandy Test. "This has come as quite a surprise although he intimated that he was not up for the Sri Lankan tour saying that he had played too much cricket. He actually asked to be left out of the Test side at Kandy."