Shahid Afridi says Pakistan cricket's future is in right direction

Shahid Afridi said the next time he announces the retirement will be the last time Getty Images

By Aidan Jones

Hong Kong: Oct 27, 2011

Talismanic Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi said on Thursday the new chairman of the nation’s cricket board gave hope to the embattled cricket side and took a swipe at the “old man” he replaced.

Afridi came out of international retirement last week after banker Zaka Ashraf was appointed chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), replacing Ijaz Butt – a long-time rival of the former one-day captain.

“The new chairman is impressive. He has run a lot of companies, so he knows how to manage people and I hope it will be a good change for Pakistani cricket,” the 31-year-old, nicknamed “Boom Boom” for his attacking batting style, told AFP in Hong Kong.

“Ijaz Butt was poor during his tenure. If you look at the things that happened in his time it is clear he didn’t do a good job. I think he needs to have some rest – he is in his seventies – he is an old man.”

Afridi announced his retirement from international cricket after being dumped as one-day captain following a row over selection with team coach Waqar Younis in May.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), then with Butt at the helm, said Afridi breached a code of conduct by announcing his retirement and levelling allegations against the board.

In response Afridi launched legal proceedings against the PCB, which were reportedly settled out of court.

The affair was the latest in a line of damaging episodes to dog Pakistani cricket, the most serious being allegations of spot-fixing during last year’s England tour which are currently being heard by a London court.

Speaking ahead of the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes event, which starts on Friday, Afridi said the change of leadership at the PCB paved the way for his return.

“I stopped playing because of Ijaz Butt… he has gone, so I am back. I am fit and want to play. The next time I retire will be the last time.”

Afridi also said he hoped the conclusion of a trial relating to spot-fixing allegations, involving internationals Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, would allow the nation to step out of the shadow of the scandal.

“It will be finished in two or three days I think, whatever the outcome it will be an example to our youngsters.”

“It’s time to leave the issue (spot-fixing) behind. There is still a lot of cricket in Pakistan to focus on.”

He also urged the PCB to invest in young players and secure the return of international cricket to Pakistan.

The country has not hosted an international tour since militants attacked the Sri Lankan team bus in March 2009, killing eight Pakistanis and wounding seven visiting players and their assistant coach.

“In a few years our rankings can improve if the PCB does the right things to encourage cricket. I am confident we are finally moving in the right direction,” he added.

Afridi will play in an All Star team at this weekend’s Sixes event alongside former Sri Lanka batsman-turned-politician Sanath Jayasuriya and South African legend Herschelle Gibbs.