Sudden exits for Pakistan players

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Pakistan's vice-captain, Rashid Latif, and their talented middle-order batsman, Basit Ali, announced yesterday that they are to retire from international cricket immediately and they will fly home early from the current tour of Zimbabwe.

Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach and manager, said the joint announcement, made by fax to the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan, had come as a complete surprise.

"Yesterday the team [minus Rashid and Basit] went to Victoria Falls and when we got back we heard the news that they had announced their retirement," Intikhab said.

"It is very unfortunate," Intikhab added, "but they say they are not enjoying international cricket any more."

The players' retirements come at the end of a long tour for Pakistan which began in South Africa at the end of November and has been dogged by poor form and controversy.

When they arrived in Zimbabwe they crashed to a stunning innings defeat in the first Test.

Although they recovered to win the series 2-1, the cricket was overshadowed by allegations from Sydney that several Australian players had been offered money to "throw" Tests during their tour of Pakistan last September and October.

Both Rashid, 26, and Basit, 24, have been involved in Test cricket for Pakistan for less than three years.