Pakistan's former opening batsman, Saeed Anwar, has announced his retirement, after being overlooked for the forthcoming series against Bangladesh. Anwar recently told the Press Trust of India that retirement was on his mind, and today he confirmed his intentions at a news conference. "I enjoyed my cricket for Pakistan," he said, "and after 15 years today I announce my retirement from international and first-class cricket."
"I am retiring on a high note but am disappointed," added Anwar. "I could have played for two more years. I made a pair in my first Test and never in my dreams imagined I would go that far after failing in my first Test. I played for Pakistan with pride and want to be remembered as a good and decent player. No one leaves cricket as a happy man ... but I think this was Allah Almighty's will."
Anwar, 34, scored 4052 runs at 45.52 in 55 Tests, and 8823 runs at 39.21 in 247 ODIs. His defining innings was his 194 against India at Madras in 1997 - the highest score by any batsman in one-day cricket. His final innings of note was also against India, at Centurion in the 2003 World Cup, but his 101 was unable to prevent defeat.
There was more than a hint of wistfulness about Anwar's departure. "I thought the selectors would give me a chance after the World Cup," he said, "and I waited for two, three months but they decided otherwise.
Two years ago, the tragic death of Anwar's baby daughter brought about a major change in his life, and he became a devout Muslim with the bushiest beard since WG Grace. "Many people think that turning to religion has ended my cricket," he admitted. "But this is not true and I kept a balance in both things."
A computer engineer by qualification, and a Wisden player of the year in 1997, Anwar will be remembered as a gracefully compelling player who thrived on sheer timing and placements. He had some regrets, chief among them the 1996 World Cup quarter-final defeat and the fine he received after Pakistan's inquiry into the match-fixing scandal. But he now wishes to become a coach to put something back into the game.
"Saeed Anwar was a great player and deserves highest accolades for a mervellous career," said PCB chief executive Ramiz Raja, a former captain and fellow opener. "The Pakistan Cricket Board pays him the greatest of tributes. Anwar was a terrific player and gave a lot to Pakistan cricket. He was perhaps the most naturally gifted player that Pakistan ever had."