Shoaib left out but Asif returns for South Africa

Pakistan on Thursday brought back Mohammad Asif but overlooked another dope-tainted pacer Shoaib Akhtar in a 17-member squad for next month’s tour of South Africa.

The national selectors also opted against recalling another pacer, Shabbir Ahmed, and instead decided to turn to Mohammad Sami to add speed to an attack dominated by medium pacers.

Also returning to the side was Karachi-based middle order batsman Asim Kamal and Peshawar opener Yasir Hameed who made his Test comeback on the back of an impressive one-day return against the West Indies earlier this month.

The big news, however, was the decision to leave out the fiery Shoaib and recall of Asif for the Test series against South Africa scheduled to get underway with the first Test at Centurion from January 11.

Both the pacers, who were banned in November after testing positive for an illegal performance-enhancing substance, were available for selection after being cleared of doping offences earlier this month and attended a conditioning camp in Lahore.

“Shoaib was under consideration to make it in the squad but we finally decided that he is still not match fit,” Iqbal Qasim, a member of the national selection committee, told ‘The News’.

“He needs to play more first-class games and regain fitness and once Shoaib does that I think he should return in the one-day series against South Africa,” said the former Test cricketer adding that Pakistan will make a few changes for the five-match One-day International (ODI) series to be played from February 4-14.

Shoaib, 31, last played a Test for Pakistan in Karachi against visiting India in January this year and has since then missed four Tests in England due to fitness problems and this season’s three-match home series against the West Indies because of a drug-related ban.

The ‘Rawalpindi Express’ was unable to impress much in a few domestic games recently though he did bowl with considerable pace at the conditioning camp in Lahore.

“He certainly needs more time,” said Iqbal, who together with other selection committee members took the option of inducting a 17th player and gave the extra spot to reserve wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider when it could have gone to Shoaib.

“We believed that with the World Cup just a few months away, the team needed an extra wicket-keeper as a cover for Kamran Akmal,” explained Iqbal, who played for Pakistan as a leg-spinner.

While the selectors opted to extend Shoaib’s Test sabbatical, they happily brought in Asif, the 24-year-old strike bowler who has become Pakistani attack’s spearhead within a span of just six Tests.

Asif, who missed the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in India and the series against the West Indies, made an effortless return to the Test squad after featuring in Sialkot Stallion’s title-winning triumph in the Twenty20 Cup earlier this week.

“It seemed like Asif was never away from competitive cricket, he looked that fit,” said Iqbal.

He added that Shabbir, however, was unable to bowl himself into contention for a Test spot. “Shabbir was quite rusty and will have to play a lot of domestic games to regain his rhythm,” said the selector.

Shabbir, the only international cricketer to get a 12-month ban over an illegal bowling action, was cleared last week by the ICC after undergoing biomechanical tests in Australia.

However, he was unable to compete against the likes of Asif, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami and Shahid Nazir who form Pakistan’s pace attack for next month’s away series.

Pakistan retained leggie Danish Kaneria as their solitary specialist spinner ignoring the superb debut of left-arm slow bowler Abdul Rehman in the one-day series against the West Indies. “He (Rehman) is still not ready for Tests but he would certainly be in contention for the one-day series,” said Iqbal.

All-rounder Abdul Razzaq is not a part of the touring party because of a calf injury and has been replaced by Asim Kamal, who has scored 717 in 12 Tests. The left-hander had a below average domestic season recently when he scored just 208 runs in seven matches at an average of 20.80. However, the selectors based their decision on Asim’s big game temperament and his ability to stay on the wicket.

Sami, who seemed down and out following a disappointing tour of England this summer, gets a precious chance to resurrect his international career.

“Sami has come out as an improved bowler in the current domestic season and also did well in a couple of one-dayers he played against the West Indies,” said Iqbal.

Another reason why Sami got the nod of approval from the selectors and the national team management is that as a genuine fast bowler he adds a dimension to Pakistan’s attack that has four medium pacers.

Pakistan are scheduled to play a three-day warm-up game against South Africa A at Kimberly from January 6 before the opening Test at Centurion. The second Test would be played at Port Elizabeth (Jan 19-23) followed by the final match at Cape Town (January 26-30).

Pakistan squad: Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Shoaib Malik, Faisal Iqbal, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal (wicket-keeper), Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Shahid Nazir, Zulqarnain Haider (reserved wicket-keeper).
Source:The News

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Written by Team CricketViewer on December 30th, 2006 with 82 Views

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