PCB allows Akhtar to play county cricket

Published: Monday, November 22, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Express pacer Shoaib Akhtar is free to play in English county cricket next year provided his national duties are not affected, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said.

"We have no objection to Akhtar's playing in English county as long as it does not coincide with the national team's duties," Board spokesman Abbas Zaidi said on Sunday.

English county side Worcestershire last week announced Akhtar, famously known as the Rawalpindi Express for his pace, will feature in the second half of their next season.

"Pakistan is not scheduled to play in the period when Akhtar is signed to play for the county, but if any international commitment comes up out of schedule then he will have to return to play for Pakistan," said Zaidi.

Akhtar, one of the fastest bowlers in the world, will join the Division Two team in July, following his country's tour of the West Indies.

The 29-year-old played for Durham county this year but had to return mid-way through the contract in July to represent Pakistan in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka and later in a tri-series in Holland and the ICC Trophy in England.

Akhtar, who is attending a training-cum-fitness camp in Lahore ahead of next month's series against Australia, said he joined Worcestershire because of Imran Khan's connection to the team.

"Khan played for Worcestershire so it would be a great opportunity to emulate my idol and I would do my best to help the county get an elevation to Division One next season," said Akhtar.

"But at the moment I am focussed on playing against Australia which will be a very tough tour for us."

Akhtar is expected to spearhead a pace attack against Australia after fellow pacer Shabbir Ahmed was ruled out the tour.

Team manager Haroon Rasheed said Shabbir had not recovered from a knee operation and would not be considered for the squad, due to be announced this week.

Pakistan opens the Australian tour with a One-day practice match on December 7 and a four-day match two days later, both in Perth. The first of three Tests begins in Perth on December 16.

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