Akhtar focus as Pak prepares for Bangla tour

Published: Wednesday, January 2, 2002, 0:47 [IST]
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Karachi: Pakistan leaves on Wednesday for its first ever Test tour of Bangladesh with a question mark over the action of one of its star pacemen.

Shoaib Akhtar, along with skipper Waqar Younis and veteran Wasim Akram, will head the fast-bowling attack during two Tests and three One-day Internationals. Dubbed the 'Rawalpindi Express', Akhtar is under scrutiny from the International Cricket Council (ICC) after his action was questioned for a third time in a short career of four years. The 26-year-old faces a one-year international ban if he is reported again for throwing. Last November his action was the subject of a report for a third time. But the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) rejected the second stage of the ICC's process for dealing with bowlers with suspect actions. If reported again on the Bangladesh tour, Akhtar would be subject to stage three of the process and a one-year ban could be imposed. Younis played down the problem as the 15-member squad prepared to leave. "I don't see any problem for Akhtar on this tour because the PCB has sent all the reports and related documents to the ICC," he told reporters. Pakistan clearly has the edge on the Test newcomers. "If Pakistan plays up to its potential it will be a clean sweep but we are not taking Bangladesh lightly," Younis said. "I know there is a feeling that it will be a very easy series for us but we will give due respect to the Bangladesh side simply because it has Test status and are playing international cricket. "Bangladesh will be playing on its home ground and it has this advantage. We will treat it as a professional side and do our best to win the series." Bangladesh, accorded Test status in 2001, has lost eight of its nine Tests - five by innings margins. Younis also warned of a tough year ahead. "We will face the West Indies, Australia and South Africa this year and I think this would be ideal preparation for the 2003 World Cup." Coach Mudassar Nazar acknowledged that Akhtar would be the main focus of attention. "Akhtar is naturally very apprehensive. It can make or break the team. Our stance is that if Sri Lankan off spinner Muthiah Muralitharan can bowl on medical grounds, then Akhtar can also bowl," Nazar said. Muralitharan was also reported in 1995 for a suspect action. But Western Australian University experts who said his bowling arm has a deformation cleared him. Akhtar was also cleared twice by the same university. The report said his bowling arm has an inborn deformity. Pakistan's planned home series against New Zealand and a makeshift series against Sri Lanka were cancelled due to security fears in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. "Despite having played little international cricket we feel that the tour of Bangladesh should be easy and anything less than that would be disappointing," Nazar said. "But since our World Cup defeat against Bangladesh is still not erased from the memories of the people and the team, we have prepared the players as we do for normal tours and have not taken it lightly." Pakistan:Waqar Younis (captain), Inzamam-ul Haq (vice captain), Taufiq Umer, Shadab Kabir, Faisal Iqbal, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Rashid Latif, Abdur Razzaq, Naveed Latif, Wasim Akram, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mohammad Sami, Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria.

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