Pakistan paceman Shoaib Akhtar will retire from international cricket after the World Cup, bringing an end to one of the most colorful careers in the sport.
"I have decided to say goodbye," Akhtar, reading from a statement, told a news conference on Thursday. "This World cup is my last and the coming matches in the tournament would be last few of my international career."
Akhtar, who made his international debut in 1997 in a test match against the West Indies, is regarded as one of the fastest bowlers ever to play the game. But his career has been plagued by injuries and, more recently, off-field issues with the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Akhtar's teammates hugged him in the dressing room before captain Shahid Afridi also embraced the paceman as they walked onto the field for a training session at R. Premadasa Stadium.
"I would have loved to continue, perhaps forever, but I must make way for the youngsters to take over," Akhtar said, then added dramatically: "With this announcement it feels like it's my first death."
Pakistan plays defending champion Australia at Colombo on Saturday in the last match in Group A. Both teams have already qualified for the quarterfinals.
Akhtar played in 46 Test matches and took 178 wickets while in 163 one-day internationals he captured 247 wickets.
Despite struggling with his fitness after knee surgery in Australia two years ago, Pakistan selectors picked Akhtar for the World Cup.
But his performance has been mixed in the tournament.
He has taken only three wickets in the three 2011 World Cup matches and was rested for the games against Canada and Zimbabwe.
His last over in the 110-run loss to New Zealand went for 28 runs when Ross Taylor hit the paceman for three sixes and two fours.
Pakistan team management fined Akhtar for breaking a team curfew when the team played two World warm-up matches in Bangladesh last month.