Shahid Afridi to retire from Tests
Shahid Afridi made the decision that seemed inevitable from the day he took over as Test captain, by announcing his Test retirement immediately after leading his side to a 150-run loss against Australia at Lord's.
Afridi has been a reluctant Test player over the years and this Test was his first in four years. A poor personal performance, capped by a four-ball 2 on the last day - out slogging to deep midwicket - didn't help matters and the second Test against Australia at Headingley, starting on Wednesday, will now be his last. Afridi's participation at Headingley, however, will depend on whether he passes a fitness test for a side strain in the days leading up to the match.
Salman Butt, the vice-captain, is likely to take over the leadership for the England series though that is not set in stone until the PCB makes a final decision. Whoever does take over will be Pakistan's fifth Test captain since the start of 2009.
"With my temperament I can't play Test cricket," Afridi said. "It is better a youngster comes in my place, probably a genuine batsman or even a genuine bowler. I picked up a side injury during the Asia Cup and unless you are 100 percent fit you can't perform in Test cricket.
"I wasn't interested in playing Test cricket but the board asked me to go and take a look as they didn't have a choice. So I took up the responsibility. They asked me to take a chance and may be I would enjoy it. But I wasn't really enjoying Test cricket but I tried. I wasn't good enough. A captain should lead by example which I did not. And if I played the way I played in this match it is better to leave."
If Afridi's side injury rules him out of the second Test at Headingley his final shot in the five-day game will be the slog-sweep that picked out Mike Hussey and Afridi was honest enough to admit he just couldn't hold back. "You are right," he said. "I am coming back to Test cricket after four years and in the interim I'd played a lot of ODI and Twenty20 cricket so I came in with the same [attacking] temperament. I was in two minds. You can say I was not strong mentally."
Yawar Saeed, Pakistan's manager, confirmed Afridi's decision to Cricinfo, though he insisted he wouldn't call it a retirement. "Afridi had a side strain and felt that he shouldn't keep a specialist out of the side. Temperamentally he feels not comfortable with the format so Leeds will be his last Test," he said.
Saeed said that Butt is likely to take over, but that any decision would have to be made in consultation with the board. Ijaz Butt, chairman PCB, is in England currently. "Salman Butt was appointed vice-captain for the tour and he will take over unless the PCB meets and decides otherwise. But as per procedure, he will take over," Saeed said.
"Salman is the vice captain and he should ideally be the man," Afridi added. "The way he has shown the maturity he is good enough to carry forward the responsibility."
The development will bring into sharp focus the PCB's decision to appoint Afridi as Test captain in the first place. He had already retired from the format once before, in 2006, only to return, ironically, for the tour to England that summer. He played a couple of Tests before pulling himself out of the format again.
Since his appointment recently, his hesitancy towards the format has surfaced repeatedly. In an interview to The Wisden Cricketer before the series began, Afridi hinted he might not play Tests for long. "I'm confident I am fine fitness-wise," he said then. "But I came back to Tests because I am doing it for the team only. If I think I am fit to do it, I will continue playing Tests. Otherwise I will not burden the side."
In a more recent interview to Cricinfo, Afridi said, "If down the line I become aware that I am not a good captain, or not a successful one, and the team is unable to make any use of me as a captain, I will not chase it. If I don't have the ability then I will leave it on my own ... I did not ask anyone forcibly to give me the captaincy, nor will I forcibly captain the team. If I am good I will prove it through my performance. If I am not good I will say khuda hafeez [God be with you]."