Afridi withdraws retirement
Shahid Afridi has withdrawn his international retirement and says he is available for selection for Pakistan in the limited-over formats. Afridi had announced a 'conditional' retirement from international cricket in May, after having been stripped of the ODI captaincy, saying he would return if there were changes in the PCB and the team management.
Since then, Waqar Younis has quit as coach of the national team and Ijaz Butt has been replaced as PCB chairman by Zaka Ashraf. Afridi said he had not really retired but had only said he wouldn't play under the previous (Ijaz Butt-led) board.
"I didn't as such retire," Afridi told reporters in Karachi on Tuesday. "I only said I would not play under the previous board but now the people are changed - exactly as I had wanted - so I am available for selection for the country."
His return to the team may not be immediate though, as Pakistan's interim chief selector Mohammad Illyas said there would be protocols to follow for the PCB to clear Afridi for selection. "He [Afridi] is good enough to play for Pakistan," Illyas told ESPNcricinfo. "But he needs to have clearance from the PCB before being available for selection. We will then seriously consider his selection for the team.
"I can't say that he is an automatic selection for the team but at the same time we never questioned his abilities as he has played an ample amount of cricket for Pakistan. We know that he still has cricket left in him. For the PCB, he was a retired player and wasn't available for selection. Today I learned through the media that he has withdrawn his retirement but as a selector I will have to check his status."
Pakistan will select their ODI squad for the series against Sri Lanka in the UAE after the second Test.
Afridi was speaking at the Karachi University Sports ceremony, where he was the chief guest, and was in a pleasant mood. He said he had remained match-fit, and was ready to return under whoever was captain. "I am fit and have continued my individual fitness routine to maintain both the form and fitness required for international cricket. As far as captaincy is concerned I never ran after it and I am ready to play under any captain."
Zaka Ashraf, the new PCB chairman, is a reputed banker in Pakistan, and Afridi said he was looking forward to a professional regime. "I took the decision not to play under the previous board on principle and still stand by it. Now, the management has changed. I learned that the new PCB chairman is very professional and I believe he can handle the PCB's functioning in a similar fashion to the way he has worked in the cooperate sector."
Afridi's issues with the previous board began during Pakistan's tour of the West Indies in May when he was involved in a spat with then coach Waqar Younis. Afridi spoke publicly about the feud, and was charged with a violation of the code of conduct by the PCB. Subsequently, Afridi was replaced as captain in the limited-over formats by Test captain Misbah-ul-haq, with Ijaz Butt saying the board had "solid reasons" to sack Afridi, which he would reveal when the time was right.
Afridi quit international cricket but played for Hampshire in the Friends Life t20 in England. He had maintained throughout that he wanted to play for Pakistan and would make himself available should there be changes in the board.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent