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Afridi to play in Australian T20 competition

Former Pakistan captain ignores more lucrative offers to join compatriot Abdul Razzaq, also named in Melbourne Renegades' 16-member squad.

Afridi, the former Pakistan all-rounder, has joined Melbourne Renegades as one of their two overseas recruits for Australia's revamped domestic Twenty20 league on Friday.

The former Pakistan captain ignored more lucrative offers to join compatriot Abdul Razzaq, who was also named in the Renegades' 16-member squad, local media said.

Afridi retired from international cricket in acrimony in May, citing differences with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

England's Owais Shah has joined Rana Naved, the Pakistani paceman, as the second foreign recruit at Hobart Hurricanes.

West Indian Chris Gayle (Sydney Thunder) and Englishman Paul Collingwood (Perth Scorchers) are among other foreign players who have signed for the eight-team 'Big Bash' tournament starting on December 16.

Afridi's decision comes shortly after statements from Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, questioning Afridi's ability to lead a team and blaming him for losing Pakistan's matches against the West Indies in May.

"In my opinion, perhaps considered wrong by some people, he made us lose the fourth and fifth one-dayers," Butt said in an interview to television channel Geo Super broadcast late on Thursday.

"As far as I am concerned he is not captaincy material for the PCB anymore," said Butt of Afridi, who was removed as captain after Pakistan won the overall series against the West Indies 3-2.

Afridi subsequently breached his contract by announcing his retirement from international cricket and criticising the PCB for mistreating senior players.

The PCB suspended Afridi's contract, revoked his permission to play abroad and directed him to appear before a disciplinary committee.

Cook to continue fine form with bat

Alastair Cook, the England one-day captain, is determined to avoid taking his fine form for granted as he leads the side into their series-decider against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Cook made a career-best 119 in a six-wicket defeat at Lord's last weekend and followed that up with an unbeaten 95 off just 75 balls as England thrashed Sri Lanka by 10 wickets at Trent Bridge on Wednesday to leave the five-match series all square at 2-2.

Yet he was left out of England's World Cup squad earlier this year because he supposedly made his runs too slowly for the one-day game.

But since being appointed one-day captain, after Andrew Strauss, the Test captain, quit the shorter format, Essex opener Cook has led from the front with the bat.

And while his performances against Sri Lanka have stunned some observers, they have not shocked the 26-year-old left-hander himself.

"I know I can score that quickly," Cook told reporters at Old Trafford on Friday. "What I've been working on is the right stuff. It's taken a couple of years at Essex working there and playing one-day cricket away from international cricket to make me expand my game.

"It has had a big effect on my Test career and now I'm starting to prove to myself and everyone else that I do have the tempo at the top of the order."

He added: "It's not about sticking it to the critics, it's about scoring runs at the top of the order and helping England win."

Sri Lanka's Twenty20 league to be played in 2012

The inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League has been postponed to next year following the withdrawal of the Indian cricketers, the island nation's sports minister said on Friday.

"The company which is organising [the tournament] said financially they are not in a shape to organise this without the Indian players," Mahindananda Aluthgamage said.

Twelve Indian players were set to participate in the July 19-August 4 event modelled on the successful Indian Premier League (IPL) but were denied permission by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that eventually led to the tournament's postponement less than a fortnight before the proposed start.

Aluthgamage had earlier said the BCCI's opposition stemmed from their suspicion that Lalit Modi, the former IPL commissioner who was removed on financial irregularity charges, was behind the tournament.

Brian Thomas, the Sri Lanka Cricket's media manager, said once the Indian players had withdrawn, it was difficult to go ahead with the event.

"We thought we can't do a tournament of this magnitude [in absence of the Indian players]. It is not a financial issue, it's a logistical problem."

Aluthgamage said the league would be replaced by a domestic tournament.

Clarke: Clear-the-air sessions helped Australia

Australia's cricket squad held frank discussions to clear the air over Simon Katich's controversial removal and will go on their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka tour with no ill-feelings, Michael Clarke, the captain, said on Friday.

Katich's Test career looks over after the 35-year-old opening batsman was not given a central contract last month, a decision that baffled Ricky Ponting, the former captain, among others.

Katich suggested the decision to go ahead without him had unease within the squad, but Clarke said the air had been cleared at the team's Brisbane camp ahead of their Sri Lanka tour starting next month.

"We had a couple of really good meetings on Sunday night, which were really open in an environment where guys were comfortable to voice their opinion," Clarke said.

"I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to say what they had to say and take it on board - as a group, we can now work together.

"We all walked out of that looking forward to what was in front of us. The boys are now feeling very comfortable," he added.

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