Is he fit or isn’t he? That is the question cricket officials, sports scribes and his team-mates have asked during the best part of Shoaib Akhtar’s happening international career.
That is the question everyone in the national cricket community is asking again after the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) used its muscles to get the star pacer dropped from Asia’s 14-man squad for next Afro-Asia Cup clash against Africa in India on fitness grounds.
Shoaib, 31, was initially selected in the all-star Asia team on the insistence of the Pakistani member of a four-man selection committee but was later excluded from the list after PCB made it clear that the bowler was still not fully fit to play international cricket. Shoaib was replaced by Bangladesh’s pacer Mashrafe Mortaza in Asia’s ODI squad.
Shoaib himself thought he was fit and after initially making himself unavailable had said that he was looking forward to making his international return with the Afro-Asia Cup to be played in Bangalore and Chennai in India from June 6 to 10.
The pacer has played little international cricket during the past year because of fitness and doping-related problems. Shoaib made his Pakistan comeback in the second Test against South Africa earlier this year but limped out of the match with a knee problem after taking four crucial wickets in January. Since then he has not played any cricket.
On Saturday, just days after Shoaib’s exclusion from Asia’s squad, a leading national cricket official said that Shoaib has completely regained fitness and is ready to play international cricket.
Mudassar Nazar, Director of PCB’s National Cricket Academy, said that Shoaib has been working on his fitness in recent weeks and has now fully recovered from a knee problem that forced him out of the World Cup in the Caribbean.
Earlier, Mohsin Hassan Khan, Pakistan’s man on Asia’s selection committee, had told this correspondent that Shoaib was dropped from Asia’s squad after it was reliably learnt from PCB officials that he is yet to regain full fitness.
A source in the PCB told this correspondent that Shoaib is fully fit and the main reason why the PCB got him excluded from Asia’s squad was the player’s unavailability for a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka that was held in Abu Dhabi from May 18-22.
Shoaib was invited for a training camp last month set up to prepare the players for the series against Sri Lanka but he opted against joining it saying that he was still not fully fit to play international cricket.
The source said that his decision to stay away from the Abu Dhabi series wasn’t taken lightly by top PCB officials. They decided to teach the controversial bowler a lesson and later got him dropped from Asia’s squad.
The source said that Shoaib was unhappy with the treatment meted out to him but decided against beginning a tussle with PCB officials, something that he had done in the past. Instead he has made his peace with the PCB after which Mudassar passed him as fully fit.
However, Shoaib’s real fitness assessment would be made during a training camp of top Pakistani players to be held in Abbottabad next month.
The source said that Shoaib would be one of the 20-25 players to be invited for the fitness camp from June 12-26. Pakistan would select their team for next month’s series of matches in Britain against India, Scotland and possibly a World XI from among the players attending the Abbottabad camp.
The camp is aimed at assessing the players’ fitness and also to help them improve it ahead of a hectic international season later this year.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Monday, May 28th, 2007 and is filed under Cricket, Cricket Stars.
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