Afridi backs Shoaib Akhtar's decision to quit

Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar (L) and captain Shahid Afridi, seen here during a training session at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, on March 17. Afridi says Akhtar’s announcement that he will retire from international cricket after the World Cup will not affect the team when they play Australia on Saturday.

Colombo: Mar 18, 2011

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi says Shoaib Akhtar’s announcement that he will retire from international cricket after the World Cup will not affect the team when they play Australia on Saturday. Akhtar announced that he will quit after the World Cup, ending a colourful and controversial 14-year career amid criticism his decision was ill-timed coming midway through the tournament.

Afridi, though, disagreed with the criticism, levelled by former Pakistani players. “He (Akhtar) has taken a right decision. He could have announced it after the World Cup, but I don’t think the timing is wrong and it won’t affect our team,” Afridi said on Friday.

Afridi denied reports in Pakistani media that Akhtar had a serious spat with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, who dropped two crucial chances off the paceman during the team’s 110-run defeat against New Zealand. Those chances allowed Ross Taylor to notch a career-best 131 at Pallekele stadium, with the New Zealand batsmen smashing off 28 off Akhtar’s last over.

“There was nothing serious between them, there is no breaking news in it,” said Afridi of the tiff, which ended in a $2,000 dollar fine for Akhtar. “Akhtar was never upset, he is enjoying the World Cup,” said Afridi, who refused to confirm whether Akhtar will be part of the eleven against Australia, though he is unlikely to play.

“We have a settled combination and if we need we can play him in the remaining matches.” Afridi praised Akhtar for his match-winning performances in the course of his career.

“Akhtar has won us many games, many series and now he has taken a decision after considering his fitness, so it’s his own decision and it’s a good decision,” said Afridi.

And the skipper justified the selection of the paceman for the World Cup. “We selected him in the squad because he can get reverse swing going and he worked really hard to get a place in the squad,” said Afridi.

Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka have already qualified for the quarter-finals from Group A. Friday’s match between Sri Lanka and the game between Pakistan and Australia will determine where teams finish in the group.

AFP