Programme takes its toll

Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi is retiring from Test cricket until at least after the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies he announced on Thursday.

The shock decision by the flamboyant Afridi leaves Pakistan with a selection headache ahead of the side's tour of England starting in July, its home series against the West Indies in November and the tour of South Africa early next year.

Afridi, echoing the sentiments of other players around the world, said that the international cricket schedule is too demanding.

"There is too much cricket and you don't get time to spend with your family. Now in the next year I will spend time with my family and focus on one-day cricket," the 26-year-old told AFP.
"I took advice from captain Inzamam-ul-Haq before reaching this decision and there was no pressure on me to take this decision.

"I know a lot of people will say that this is a decision taken in haste but I have been thinking of it for the last two, three months and after a lot of thinking I have come to it."

Afridi has been a solid, though sometimes inconsistent player for Pakistan, accumulating 1,634 runs with five centuries in 24 Tests and 44 wickets.

In a total of 222 one-day internationals, he has scored 4,824 runs and taken 184 wickets, and holds the record for the fastest limited overs century when he rose the bat after just 37 balls against Sri Lanka in 1996.

Meanwhile, Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist believes that 'ridiculous' scheduling in international cricket meant that his side had no time to adjust to the conditions in Bangladesh for the first Test.

The world's No.1 Test side was pushed all the way by the developing Bangladeshi outfit, and the game was in the balance almost right up until the winning runs were struck by tailender Jason Gillespie for a three-wicket triumph.

But Gilchrist, who won man-of-the-match for his return to form in the first innings when he scored a game-turning 144, believes that it was difficult for Australia to acclimatise to the conditions at Fatullah Stadium, which were very different to those on the side's recent South African tour.

When asked whether lead-up matches would have helped the Australian team's preparation for the Test, Gilchrist agreed, but said: "It is an almost ridiculously busy schedule international cricket keeps at the moment, and it's a tough call to ask players to play in lead-up matches when the schedule is so jam-packed."

"We were Test match ready but it took us time to get going in these conditions," he added, probably in reference to Bangladesh's 427-run first innings.

Australia came into the Bangladesh tour after back-to-back three-Test series against South Africa home and away, with one-day tournaments in both countries being played concurrently.

The players have only two days rest before squaring up again in the second Test on Sunday.

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