Thatscricket - ODI Series - India~~s tour of Pakistan- ~~I had almost decided to give up cricket~~

Published: Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 21:07 [IST]
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Peshawar:Pakistan's popular all-rounder Shahid Afridi said he had almost given up playing cricket in the past year, but adoring fans made him change his mind.

The hard-hitting batsman had not been considered by the selectors since Pakistan's embarrassing first round exit from the World Cup in South Africa a year ago.

But he was brought back for the ongoing One-day series against India and responded with a blistering 80 off 58 balls in his comeback match at Rawalpindi on Tuesday which helped Pakistan win.

"These last 12 months have been a wake up call," the 24-year-old said ahead of Friday's third One-dayer to be played before his adoring fellow Pathans in this Northwestern city.

"I had almost decided to give up cricket, but the affection I received from fans kept me going. Even in India, where I went as captain of the Pakistan 'A' team last year, the crowds kept urging me to fight for my place in the national side. It was very touching. If I can score consistently, I know I will be here to stay for a long time."

Afridi, who scored just 16 runs in three World Cup games, was suspended temporarily by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) after being charged with verbal abuse during the key clash against India at the Centurion Park on March 1 last year.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for the young man, who was selected for Pakistan in 1997 purely as a leg-spinner and smashed a record-breaking century in 37 balls in only his second game against Sri Lanka.

Now a married man with two daughters, Afridi said he had matured as a cricketer after a recent stint with Griqualand in South Africa's domestic cricket.

"South African pitches have more bounce than the ones in Pakistan and helped me develop my batting," he said.

Afridi said he was enjoying India's first full tour of Pakistan since 1989.

"We share very good relations with the Indian players, but no quarter is spared when we get on the field. The most important thing for me is to see Pakistan win," he said.

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