ICL: Indian Cricket League


Shoaib losing race against time ahead of South Africa tour

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shoaibThe indifferent form of fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has alarmed Pakistani cricket authorities since returning to competitive cricket after being controversially cleared of a drug-related ban earlier this month.

Well-placed sources told this correspondent on Sunday that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials are double-minded whether to recall Shoaib in their squad for next month’s important tour of South Africa after watching his lacklustre bowling in a few domestic games recently.

It is quite visible that Shoaib, known in the cricket world as the ‘Rawalpindi Express’, is yet to gather pace after missing Pakistan’s last two assignments - the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy and the home series against the West Indies - because of a doping ban.

The world’s fastest bowler turned out to be quite harmless for local cricketers when he starred for Rawalpindi Rams in the ongoing Twenty20 Cup in Karachi.

Shoaib took just one wicket in two matches as his team crashed out of the event at the first hurdle.

Shoaib, 31, also played a four-day Patron’s Trophy game for KRL where he did show some sparks by taking three wickets against WAPDA after going wicketless in the first innings. KRL lost that match.

National selectors have made it clear that Shoaib will have to prove his form and fitness in domestic matches to earn a recall in the Pakistan team for the tour of South Africa. The proof they need, however, is not yet visible.

Now Shoaib has one more platform to show the PCB, national selectors and the Pakistan team management that he is still an asset - a conditioning camp getting underway in Lahore from tomorrow.

The injury-prone Shoaib is a part of a 25-man list of probables, which would form the brief conditioning camp during which Pakistan would pick their squad for the Test series against South Africa getting underway with the first match at Centurion from January 11.

“Shoaib is walking on thin ice,” said an official on the condition of anonymity. “His fitness history is far from encouraging and might become a stumbling block for the bowler’s international return in the current circumstances,” he added.

Shoaib, who has taken 165 wickets from 42 Tests, is one of the several fast bowlers in contention for the tour of South Africa.

They include Mohammad Asif, who was initially banned along with Shoaib for doping last month. Asif has made an effortless return to competitive cricket after being cleared by an appeals committee of any doping offences and is all set to spearhead the Pakistani attack in South Africa.

Then there are more pacers who have shown good form in recent international outings like Umar Gul, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Shahid Nazir, Mohammad Sami and the lanky Shabbir Ahmed, who has been allowed to return to international cricket after serving a 12-month ban for an illegal bowling action.

Time is running out for Shoaib as Pakistan are to announce their touring party for South Africa within the next few days. He will have to come out with a convincing display of fast bowling and he will have to do that quickly.

Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 25th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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