ICL: Indian Cricket League

Jack-in-the-Box Shoaib says Pakistan number one priority


akhterJust when one thought Shoaib Akhtar had become a part of history, the enigmatic pacer has once again returned to the national cricket scene with a bang.

Discarded after a turbulent tour of India and dropped from the central contracts list last month, Shoaib kept a low profile for a while, trying his best not to attract any new controversy. But on Friday, he made an appearance at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and announced that ‘Pakistan was still his number one priority’.

Shoaib said that he has refused to accept a special retainer offered by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and made it clear that despite being disappointed at being snubbed by the board for the Zimbabwe series, he remains committed to the team cause and is eyeing a return to international cricket in the much-awaited home series against Australia.

“I wanted to play against Zimbabwe because that would have helped me find my rhythm before the series against Australia,” said Shoaib, who was ignored by Pakistan for the five-match ODI series against the Zimbabweans which concludes today in Sheikhupura. “But I’m continuously working on my fitness and am confident to be in top shape before the Australians come here,” he added.

Australia are scheduled to tour Pakistan in March-April to play three Tests, five One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 game but the tour remains doubtful because of security concerns raised by Australian cricketers.

The tour if it goes ahead will be a tough test for the Pakistanis, who endured a rough patch last year with back-to-back defeats against South Africa and India. Many critics believe that to beat Australia, Pakistan will need the services of their top strike bowlers.

Shoaib, 32, said that he is ready to play that role in spite of the fact that that he was left out of the central contracts list that included 15 of the country’s leading players. “I don’t need a central contract to play for my country,” he stressed. “I have no hard feelings against the board (PCB),” he added.

Shoaib said that for him Pakistan comes first. “Opting for financial gains instead of putting the needs of my country first would’ve been a source of embarrassment on my part. I turned out for my country when I was ill because I was required and I will do so again whenever required. I’m fit, I’m strong and I’m ready to play for Pakistan with or without a contract,” he said.

Shoaib, who has taken 178 wickets from 46 Tests besides picking 219 ODI scalps from 138 games, said that he has even shelved plans of kicking off a movie career to completely focus on putting his international career back on track.

“I want to clarify that contrary to some reports, I have not signed any movie contract and am just concentrating on cricket.” Meanwhile, PCB chief Nasim Ashraf has welcomed Shoaib’s move as a positive one saying that the doors to international cricket will open for him provided the fast bowler regains his form and fitness.

“We find Shoaib’s move very encouraging,” Ashraf told ‘The News’. “I mean there is no doubt that he is a valuable strike bowler and we would love to have him back in the team provided he proves his form and fitness,” he added.

The PCB chief reiterated that Shoaib will have to appear in this month’s Pentangular Cup and bowl sufficient overs in at least two of the event’s matches before having a chance to play for Pakistan again.

“The conditions for unfit bowlers are very clear and also apply in Shoaib’s case. They will have to prove their form and fitness by playing in the Pentangular Cup,” he said. Shoaib said he sees no problems with this condition. “I’m looking forward to proving my fitness in the Pentangular Cup,” he said.

Source:Cricket News

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