ICL: Indian Cricket League

Toothless Pakistan desperate for return of Shoaib Akhtar



If Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer is concerned by his team’s growing injury list, he doesn’t show it. The Englishman who has seen his players drop like nine pins in the build-up to this tour of England and on it, is in fact still able to see the funny side of it when asked to comment on how unfit are his injured players.

“Where should I begin,” he says with a wry smile. “It’s a long book.” Woolmer saw his pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar limp out of the touring party a couple of weeks before it was scheduled to fly for England. The speedster who declared himself fit after twin knee surgery in February this year was undone by a recurring ankle stress fracture.

Then came the news that Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, who had bowled well for Sussex in England earlier in the season, had a groin injury. He was subsequently ruled out of the Test series after trying to get fit with a brief stay with his team-mates in England.

The coach, however, had hoped his protege Mohammad Asif would fill in. But no such luck as Asif too developed an elbow injury that proved serious enough for the team management to send him back home.

Then began the batting woes when it was revealed that Shoaib Malik, expected to open in England, was suffering from post-surgery problems with his elbow. The talented all-rounder underwent surgery in South Africa earlier this year in a bid to correct his suspect bowling action. He too had to head home.

Vice-captain Younis Khan, one of Pakistan’s middle order workhorses, was also sidelined from the first Test under progress at Lord’s after failing to recover from a knee problem.

“These have been a tough few days for us,” says Woolmer. “But the good news is that Shoaib Akhtar is on his way back.”

Woolmer said that Shoaib would be arriving soon in England and would carry out a series of sessions with a Warwickshire physical trainer. “We have arranged for Shoaib to use Warwickshire’s facilities. He would train there and would later play some local league games later this month.”

Pakistan were unable to bowl out England in the first innings at Lord’s with pacers Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul failing to impress much.

Woolmer said that with limited bowling options available, Pakistan are now desperate for Shoaib to make a comeback.

“We are looking towards Shoaib and hope he would be back soon,” said Woolmer. But Shoaib’s return to Test cricket remains unlikely before the fourth and final match of the series at The Oval next month.

“Shoaib’s stress fracture has healed 80 percent but he would still need some time to be able to make a comeback.”

Woolmer said that Pakistan would only be able to take a final decision on Shoaib’s return after monitoring his progress following the Warwickshire workout.

Source:The News

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