Shoaib racing against time to prove fitness

Published: Monday, February 14, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Express pacer Shoaib Akhtar is still facing fitness problems with just over a week before Pakistan start their first full tour of India in six years, chief selector Wasim Bari said.

"Akhtar has informed me that he still carries a niggle and needs time to recover," Bari said on Monday.

"I have conveyed to him that Pakistan needs a fully fit Akhtar for the important India tour," he said.

"We have requested the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to provide us a full fitness report on each player so that we can decide on the team when we meet on Friday," he said as injury problems hit several other players.

Pacer Mohammad Sami injured his heel and back and had to return home after the second Test in Australia in December last year while young pacer Mohammad Khalil is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in the first final of the Australia tri-series earlier this month.

Two other frontline pacers Shabbir Ahmed - recovering from a knee operation in November last year - and Umar Gul - who needs another four months to recover from a stress fracture of the back he suffered in the home series against India last year - are already out of the tour.

Pakistan plays three Tests and five One-day games from February 25 to April 9 on their first tour of India for six years.

The 29-year-old Akhtar had to return home from the last phase of team's tour of Australia and is still recuperating from a hamstring injury.

Akhtar is also facing a disciplinary action for visiting a disco on the Australian tour.

He denied charges before a disciplinary committee on Saturday and a final decision, which may bar him from touring India or levy a huge fine, is expected to be announced by Tuesday.

The PCB had also directed Akhtar to play a four-day first class match starting on Monday to prove his fitness but the pacer did not comply.

Bari said it was imperative for Akhtar to prove his fitness and not break down again.

"It's his own decision not to play, it's for his own good that he attains full fitness through a match because his reputation as the spearhead is at stake," said the chief selector.

Bari denied captain Inzamam-ul-Haq or coach Bob Woolmer had given him any negative report on Akhtar.

Akhtar and Sami disappointed the home fans by managing just seven wickets apiece in Pakistan's home defeat at the hands of India last year.

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