x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Don't count Shahid Afridi out for long

Retirements among Pakistan cricket players never seem to be final arrangements.

Shahid Afridi is the latest in a long list of Pakistan cricketers to call time on their international careers after a fall out with management. Many, though, do return.
Shahid Afridi is the latest in a long list of Pakistan cricketers to call time on their international careers after a fall out with management. Many, though, do return.

Shahid Afridi has never been shy of retiring. As such, his latest announcement feels like it has all the permanence of a snowman on Jumeirah Beach in July.

Retiring seems like something to do to pass the time in Pakistani cricket. In much the same way as players from England and Australia, for example, compete for Twitter followers, social standing in Pakistan seems to depend on how many retirements you have had.

Despair at the prevailing Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) regime is usually what does for the players, as is the case this time with Afridi.

His anger at being "humiliated" by "dishonourable people" at the top of the game in Pakistan has familiar echoes.

In the fall-out of a ludicrously ill-tempered tour of Australia, Mohammed Yousuf retired in March of last year, in protest at a suspension meted out to him by the board. He returned in August.

Abdul Razzaq, another senior figure with a troubled cricketing soul, hung up his boots in August 2007 only to make a comeback that October

Four years on, he is still going strong.

At least some have been able to leave while in good spirits. Having led Pakistan to the World Twenty20 title in England in the summer of 2009, Younus Khan announced his immediate retirement from the 20-over format. By October, he was available for selection again.

Less happily, Zulqarnain Haider retired from all international cricket after fleeing Pakistan - via the UAE, where they were touring at the time - last year.

The wicketkeeper cited threats that had been made to him by match-fixers as his reason for giving up. Yet last month, having returned to his homeland from the UK, he said he is ready to end his six-month-long retirement.

This will be something like the third retirement, so far, for Afridi, but his first from his beloved limited-overs game.

He has twice given up Tests, most recently last year, when he quit the long form immediately after playing his first one in four years.

At least we can believe that the full-stop he has applied on the five-day game is for good.

Almost all of the above announcements have included the word "filhaal", which in Urdu means "for now".

What binds together all of his retirements is the angst at the political machinations which pollute the top of the game in Pakistan.

Ijaz Butt, one of the subjects of Afridi's ire, has not been afraid of picking fights during his storied tenure as the chairman of the PCB. His three-year term is due to end in October. Whether he lasts that long, having fallen foul of the most popular and most bankable player in Pakistan, remains to be seen.

As per the International Cricket Council's future tours programme, Pakistan are due to play a series against Sri Lanka in October and November.

No dates have been confirmed for those matches, and whether they are going to be played in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Singapore or Timbuktu is anyone's guess.

Wherever it is that Pakistan next play, do not bet against them having Afridi in harness.

pradley@thenational.ae