Afridi Eager to Return to Cricket

Karachi, June 22 (IANS) Shahid Afridi left for London Wednesday to launch his career as a 'retired' player when he will make his debut for Hampshire in a Friends Pro-T20 clash against Essex Eagles at Chelmsford.

The star all-rounder, who announced his retirement from international cricket during a bitter dispute with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is happy to return to cricketing action.

"I'm really looking forward to be back in action," Afridi told 'The News' in an interview Wednesday.

"The last few weeks were pretty frustrating but thank god it's over now."

Till a few days ago it seemed that Afridi won't be able to fulfill his lucrative assignment with Hampshire as he was busy battling in court against the PCB.

It all began when Afridi was relieved of Pakistan's one-day captaincy last month after he hinted at disharmony in the national team management following his team's 3-2 win in the limited-overs series against West Indies.

Reacting to the snub, Afridi announced his retirement from international cricket and lashed out at the PCB for "ill-treating" him. The PCB decided to hit back by suspending his central contract and revoking all No Objection Certificates thus blocking the player's participation in the Friends Pro-T20 event in England.

Afridi returned home and filed a petition in the Sindh High Court. A few days later, he withdrew the petition following a meeting with PCB chief Ijaz Butt. The board slapped him with a hefty fine of Rs.4.5 million but agreed to grant him NOC to play for Hampshire.

The entire episode was a stunning turnaround for the 31-year-old who was hailed as a hero last March when he guided Pakistan to the World Cup semifinals.

However, Afridi made it clear that he won't delve in the past.

"All I'm thinking about is how to regain my form, both as a bowler and as a batsman," said Afridi, who is one of the world's most successful all-rounders in the shorter formats of the game.

"I'm looking forward to do well as an all-rounder for Hampshire," said the player who has scored 6695 runs and bagged 315 wickets in One-day Internationals. He is also one of the most prolific players in Twenty20 Internationals with 683 runs and 53 wickets from 43 matches.

Afridi peaked as a legspinner during the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent where he emerged as one of the most successful bowlers in the 16-nation spectacle. But his performance graph dipped in the Caribbean where he flopped both with the bat and ball.

However, an unplanned yet well-deserved sabbatical from cricket has left Afridi in a buoyant mood.

"I was feeling a bit drained after the World Cup which is probably the reason why my performance wasn't up to the mark against the West Indies," he said.

"But I'm feeling much better now and am itching to play cricket which is a great sign."


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