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April 27, 2006
Less than a fortnight after announcing a surprise retirement from Test cricket, Shahid Afridi has reversed his decision following talks with Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman and Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach.
Afridi told Cricinfo that both had been instrumental in him reversing his surprising decision. "Bob spoke to me in Abu Dhabi and was quite upset with me for making the decision. He told me that I am one of the main players in the team and squad and that Pakistan really needed me."
Afridi also spoke to Shaharyar a couple of days ago, having initially contacted him because he was about to leave for England. Shaharyar also persuaded him likewise. "I spoke to him initially because I was off to England to play for Ireland but he said to me that I should play on as well as the team needed me. After those two, as well as many other friends and advisors, I decided to take back my decision."
Shaharyar told Cricinfo he felt Afridi had initially decided to retire because of the pressure he was putting himself under every time he went out to bat. "I don't think it was due to any differences within the team. I think he felt the pressure of having to perform for a crowd every time he went to bat. In Faisalabad and Karachi recently the ovation he has got has been absolutely phenomenal. Some English players told me when they played in Karachi they'd never seen the type of reception Afridi got when he came out to bat. In Faisalabad, people left the stadium when he was out."
Shaharyar added that from the moment Afridi announced his `retirement', he was determined to speak to him to convince him otherwise. "I had it in mind from the beginning to speak to him and ask him to reconsider. Then we spoke and I said to him that while it is a personal decision and it must be respected, it is disappointing nonetheless. I reminded him that his Test form of late had been brilliant and that while he may not be an automatic selection in the eleven, he is an essential member of the playing squad."
Afridi originally said that he wanted to concentrate on one-day cricket ahead of next year's World Cup because of an increasingly heavy playing schedule and the lack of family time it allowed him. He maintained that it is still an issue. "I still say there is too much cricket and that our schedules are packed. I think the key is now how we - the PCB and the players - manage it. We have to look at issues like increased rest between matches and tours maybe or ask for rest at the right time but it has to be handled." Afridi is due to leave for England in a couple of days to play for Ireland in the C&G Trophy.
Shaharyar added, "I understand playing schedules are very hectic now but we are trying to work on it with the players. Hopefully, everybody's concerns will eventually be seen to." Afridi's turnaround thus brings to an end a bizarre chapter even in a career as unconventional as his, though it does at least ensure that the Pakistani cricketing tradition of players reversing retirement decisions - think Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram - is well and truly alive.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?