PCB and Shaheen Afridi hold crisis talks after statement furore

Pakistan
Pakistan’s captaincy saga has been plunged into further crisis, with Shaheen Afridi believed to be furious with a statement on the PCB’s website carrying quotes attributed to him which he did not say. ESPNcricinfo understands Afridi was on the brink of making a statement to this effect, but the PCB has held emergency talks with him. Another hastily organised meeting with PCB chairman Mohsin Naqvi will take place on Monday.
It is understood Afridi, who is thoroughly unimpressed by the manner in which he has been treated over the whole captaincy U-turn, was not asked by the PCB to provide a statement to use in a press release. However, a few hours after Babar Azam was reappointed captain, a press release was put out in which words from Shaheen pledged complete support to Babar Azam as captain and stated it was “an honour” to lead Pakistan.

“I will always cherish the memories and the opportunity,” the statement, attributed to Afridi, said. “As a team player, it is my duty to back our captain, Babar Azam. I have played under his captaincy and have nothing but respect for him. I will try to help him on and off the field. We are all one. Our aim is the same, to help Pakistan become the best team in the world.”

Afridi is understood to have contributed nothing to that statement at all, and this latest flare-up is set to further ignite tensions in a Pakistan camp where unity has been severely tested by the PCB’s repeated flip-flopping concerning the national captaincy. The writing was on the wall for Afridi since Naqvi refused to back him at a press conference in Lahore on Sunday, saying at the time a decision would be made after Pakistan’s training camp with the military ended. But it appears the decision to sack him was then already on the verge of being finalised.

It is understood Shaheen does not feel it has been fully clarified to him why he was replaced in the first place, and is frustrated by the lack of communication from the PCB. And the PCB’s attempt to quell any lingering resentment by putting out a statement where both Babar and Shaheen exchanged warm words has only resulted in fanning the flames.

The manner in which the captaincy has been handed back from Shaheen to Babar is inevitably likely to strain relations between arguably the two biggest stars in Pakistan cricket. The pair has enjoyed close relations over the years, with Shaheen offering public support for Babar’s captaincy last year at a time it was perceived to be under threat.

But now Afridi’s discontent has meant the PCB has been forced to enter damage-control mode, and will need to seek the least combustible way out of this awkward situation. Naqvi and the PCB are expected to attempt to placate him and diffuse any simmering resentment over the whole affair, though how successfully they manage it remains to be seen.

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