Saqlain, Gul, Shabbir out of India tour

Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Comeback hopes of Saqlain Mushtaq, who proved to be India's nemesis when Pakistan toured India in 1999, were dashed on Monday after the off-spinner was ruled out on fitness grounds for the upcoming Indian tour.

Saqlain, who is still on crutches after both his knees were operated upon, has also been left out by his employers - Pakistan International Airlines - for the Patron's Trophy first-class cricket competition beginning on Tuesday.

Besides Mushtaq, fast bowler Umar Gul is also set to miss out on the high-profile tour comprising three Tests and five one-dayers on fitness grounds.

"Both the bowlers will not be available for the forthcoming tour of India," PIA coach Rashid Khan told PTI.

Rashid said Umar Gul had been told by the South African specialists that they would inspect his back in June again before they can comment on his comeback.

There were also question marks on the fitness of paceman Shabbir Ahmed with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) being advised by its panel of doctors not to plan the Khanewal-born bowler's comeback before the West Indies tour scheduled this year in June.

Saqlain, who has taken 208 Test and 288 one-day wickets, captured 20 wickets in two Tests against India in the 1999 series in India while Umar Gul was man-of-the-match against India in the Lahore Test last year.

"Saqlain's left knee has completely healed but probably because he started training earlier than advised, he is still in pain as regards right knee. He has been strictly instructed to rest and do only pool exercises if he wants to play again," Rashid said.

Umar Gul is suffering from a stress fracture in the back which, according to former Pakistan trainer Tauseef Razzak, has transformed into fracture because of a wrong treatment. Razzak, it may be recalled, was fired after the Lahore Test.

Sources within the PCB said Shabbir Ahmed was also unlikely to tour India as he has yet to recover from the knee surgery that kept him out of the Australian tour.

"Shabbir's knees were examined by the PCB panel of doctors and National Cricket Academy's South African trainer Grant Compton who have advised the establishment not to consider him for the Indian tour. According to the specialists, Shabbir can stage a comeback for the West Indies tour in June," sources said.

The non-availability of Shabbir and Umar Gul for the Indian tour will surely give embattled and injury-stricken pace duo of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami a new lease of life after question marks were raised over their form besides fitness.

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