ICL: Indian Cricket League

Fit-again Shoaib to fly for South Africa after Gul injury


Pace star Shoaib Akhtar will fly for Johannesburg today (on Tuesday) to join the Pakistan team ahead of the opening Test against South Africa getting underway at Centurion from Thursday, chief selector Wasim Bari said on Monday.

Bari told ‘The News’ Shoaib has convinced national selectors about his form and fitness and is needed by Pakistan team following fears that in-form medium pacer Umar Gul might miss the opening Test because of an ankle problem.

“Shoaib has proved that he is fit and in good form and will be sent to South Africa as early as tomorrow after confirmation that Gul’s injury is of a serious nature,” Bari said. A Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) official confirmed that Shoaib would be rushed to South Africa ahead of the opening Test because ìGul has been ruled out for at least three weeksî.

“The team management requested for Gul’s replacement, asking for either Shoaib or Shabbir Ahmed,” said PCB’s Director of Communications Dr Ahsan Malik. He added that the PCB left it to Bari to decide which bowler should replace the injured Gul and the former Test cricket opted for Shoaib. Shabbir, a highly-rated medium pacer, was also ignored for the tour of South Africa because the selectors thought he was rusty after serving a 12-month ban for an illegal bowling action.

Pakistan surprisingly ignored Shoaib from their 17-man touring party for South Africa on the basis that the fast bowler failed to prove his form and fitness after staying out of international cricket for a couple of months because of a doping scandal.

Shoaib, 31, featured in a Patron’s Trophy match and later in the Twenty20 Cup in Karachi last month but was unable to come out with any worthwhile performance in the two events. According to the official version, Shoaib was not considered for the Test series against South Africa because he lacked match fitness though insiders said that he was ignored on the insistence of Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The PCB had announced that Shoaib would be brought back in the squad the moment he proves his fitness adding that chances were he might play in the five-match one-day series against South Africa in February.

However, Bari said that exceptional circumstances forced the national selectors to reconsider Shoaib. “Nobody ever doubted Shoaib’s class and he was only overlooked for the Test series against South Africa on fitness grounds. But now circumstances are quite different because he seems fit while Gul, who was one of our main strike bowlers, is out of action because of injury,” he explained.

Gul, Pakistan’s leading wicket-taking pacer in 2006 (36 wickets in nine Tests), bowled only three overs in a three-day practice game against Rest of South Africa XI in Kimberley on Sunday because of an ankle strain.

Shoaib, meanwhile, made his presence felt in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy when he ripped through the innings of Abbottabad and finished with 3-21 in eight overs on Sunday to help Islamabad record a big win.

His performance even forced the PCB chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf to say that Shoaib might return to the Pakistan team anytime during the three-match Test series against South Africa.

Ashraf told reporters on Monday that Shoaib has regained fitness and was in contention for an early return to international cricket.

Previously, the PCB had announced that it was unlikely that Shoaib would play for Pakistan before the one-day series against South Africa getting underway from February 4. Shoaib, who has taken 165 wickets from 42 Tests, last played a Test match almost one year ago against India in Karachi and has since been out of the squad either due to injury or suspension.

Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2007 and is filed under General.

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