Afridi's international future still uncertain
Shahid Afridi and the PCB may have reached a kind of compromise which sees both sides get what they want, but the issue of Afridi's international future remains shrouded in doubt still. After being removed as ODI captain, Afridi 'retired' from the international game, though he made it clear that it was a decision made in protest and a 'conditional' one; several times he said he would not play again under the current administration, but would reconsider if and when there was a change.
Under the compromise reached between Afridi and PCB chairman Ijaz Butt earlier this week, the former withdrew his petition against the board in the Sindh High Court and will face a board disciplinary committee hearing later on Thursday in Lahore. In return, he is expected to be granted the No-Objection Certificate (NOC) that allows him to play for Hampshire in the ongoing Friends Life t20 and later for one of the franchises in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL).
Increasingly as the dispute has escalated, Afridi has focused purely on being allowed to play for Hampshire and made little mention of his Pakistan future. Butt told ESPNcricinfo that Afridi's retirement "was not mentioned at all" during their meeting. "As far as the board is concerned he is still retired," Butt said.
A report in the leading Urdu daily Jang on Thursday suggests further that Afridi has not thought about his international future. At a function to mark the re-launch of the Jang group's sports channel Geo Super two nights ago - the channel has been off-air for nearly two months - the report quoted Afridi telling the audience that "the NOC was my right and nobody could stop him from getting it." When asked about his international future, Afridi gave no reply.
Further, the newspaper cited sources close to Afridi as saying at the same event that he has no immediate plans for a return and is only concentrating on the T20 events in England and Sri Lanka.
What has confused the issue, however, is a statement allegedly released by Afridi late on Wednesday night, in which he seems to suggest he still has an international future. "I have always served Pakistan and played cricket for my country and its people and the overwhelming love, honour and respect I have received in return is my biggest asset," part of the statement reads. "I have all the zeal and energy to play cricket for the nation for many years to come. I will be appearing before the disciplinary committee tomorrow, inshallah."
The statement has come from a close advisor of Afridi, but other sources insist that it does not convey the authentic sentiments of Afridi and that he has not owned up to it.
Afridi's desire for international cricket has come under scrutiny several times in the past. In 2006 he retired briefly from Test cricket - after his most successful phase in the format incidentally - to concentrate on the limited overs game. He took back that decision, however, soon after and even returned to play one Test - as captain no less - last summer in England. Immediately after leading Pakistan to a loss at Lord's against Australia, he resigned as captain and retired from the format again.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo