Afridi back in Pakistan team
Islamabad - Pakistan World Cup captain Shahid Afridi was back in the limited-overs team within hours of meeting with the new head of the Pakistan Cricket Board on Wednesday.
Afridi described his morning talks with Zaka Ashraf as "very positive," and soon afterwards the temperamental all-rounder was named in the 16-man squad for five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 against Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates starting on November 11.
"I'm very positive after sharing my views with the new chairman," Afridi said after an hour-long meeting with Ashraf in Lahore.
Afridi, one of Pakistan's greatest limited-overs exponents, provisionally retired from international cricket in midyear, saying he wouldn't play under Ashraf's predecessor Ijaz Butt. Butt stepped down just under a month ago.
Also named in the limited-overs side were all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, who had been sidelined since the World Cup, middle-order batsman Umar Akmal, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed and left-arm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir. They will all join the team in the UAE for the ODIs.
Afridi's return was good news for Pakistan a day after captain Salman Butt and bowler Mohammad Asif were convicted in a British court of conspiracy to cheat and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments as part of a betting scam around a Test against England in August 2010.
Butt, Asif and fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who had already pleaded guilty to both charges, could be jailed for up to seven years when they are sentenced this week.
"I really feel sorry for the family members of these cricketers because they now have to live with this (spot-fixing) blot," Afridi said.
"This is a lesson for other cricketers - especially newcomers - to move in the right direction. The whole issue has earned a bad name to Pakistan and the team as well."
Afridi, after leading Pakistan to a one-day series win in West Indies, criticised team management as well as Ijaz Butt for their handling of choosing the captain. The PCB suspended Afridi and prevented him from playing overseas, and he retired out of frustration. Afridi started legal action, and politicians stepped in to mediate between him and Ijaz Butt, concluding with an out-of-court settlement, apology and fine.
When Ashraf took over at the PCB, he said he wanted Afridi back in Pakistan colours, but he also wanted to consult other senior PCB officials.
On Wednesday, interim chief selector Mohammad Ilyas joined Afridi and Ashraf during the meeting.
"They didn't directly say when I would be selected, but I am quite confident that I will soon return to international cricket," Afridi said.
Afridi led Pakistan to the World Cup semi-finals before losing to arch-rivals and eventual champions India in March. He subsequently led Pakistan to a 3-2 win against West Indies, but was criticised by both coach and the then manager Intikhab Alam in their tour reports.
On Wednesday, Afridi indicated he no longer was interested in being national captain.
"Now I just want to enjoy cricket and play for Pakistan," he said.
Misbah-ul-Haq was Afridi's deputy in the World Cup and was captain for the current Test, ODI and Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka.
Afridi said he had no problems with Misbah.
"He helped me a lot during the World Cup. Now the question is not the captaincy, the real question is to play for Pakistan and that's all I want to do," he said.
Pakistan are in the process of recruiting a new head coach after nominating chief selector Mohsin Khan as the interim coach for their series against Sri Lanka.
Ashraf wants the national team to have three specialist coaches for bowling, batting and fielding.
That concept has Afridi's support.
"The only thing I like to see is that all three coaches should have done specialised courses in their respective fields," he said. "That's the only way they could be held accountable."
Ashraf also met with the heads of the coach-finding committee Alam and Zaheer Abbas on Wednesday, and the PCB said in a statement that it would advertise "for batting, bowling and fielding coaches for the national team and search for suitable candidates to strengthen all the departments."
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Sarfarz Ahmed, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq.