Asif set to miss opener as Pakistan face selection crisis
Pakistani officials are suffering selection headaches ahead of the first Test against England at Lord’s after it became clear on Tuesday that pacer Mohammad Asif would not be in the playing eleven tomorrow (Thursday).
Team coach Bob Woolmer told ‘The News’ that Asif would not be fit for the opening Test as the player has not recovered from an elbow injury he received during a four-day game against England A last week.
With injured pacers — Shoaib Akhtar and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan — already out, Asif’s absence would come as a huge setback for Pakistan who, in recent times, had been enjoying a threatening pace attack.
The hosts have called for young medium pacer Samiullah Niazi from Pakistan but Woolmer said it was highly unlikely he would play at Lord’s. “He (Niazi) would be here tomorrow. But with just putting him in the team for the first Test is unlikely. We will have to rely on Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Shahid Nazir and Abdul Razzaq as the team’s fast bowlers,” he said.
Woolmer also ruled out the possibility of veteran leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed making a comeback at Lord’s, saying, “I don’t think we will call Mushtaq for the match. We will have to do with the bowlers we have here with us.”
Pakistan are yet to name their team for the opening Test with manager Zaheer Abbas saying that the announcement has been delayed in order to give Asif some more time to recover. “We are not announcing the team because what will happen if we omit Asif and he gets fit,” Zaheer told this correspondent.
While Zaheer was still hoping that Asif might play at Lord’s, Woolmer made it clear that he doesn’t expect him to.
With England without most of their last summer’s Ashes heroes, Pakistan are seen by most as the favourites to win the four-match Test series.
But Woolmer said he doesn’t think any of the two teams could be rated as the favourites. “Each Test starts 50-50 and the one getting underway at Lord’s would be no different.”
Woolmer said he still hasn’t seen the Lord’s wicket and would have a look at the pitch on Wednesday morning.
He added that except for Asif, all his players were fit for section in the opening Test’s line-up.
Some of the Pakistani players including Sami, vice-captain Younis Khan and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal were on the receiving end in the build-up for the Test series but Woolmer said that they were all fine.
Younis had an injection for a leg injury while Sami and Kamran are also 100 percent fit after getting treatment for their minor injuries over the last few days.
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