Rawalpindi Express derailed

Published: Friday, February 18, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar pulled out of Pakistan's upcoming tour of India saying it would take him at least a month to recover from a hamstring injury.

"I am disappointed to say that I have pulled out of the tour of India because my hamstring injury would take another four to five weeks and I don't want to play half fit," Akhtar said on Friday.

His pull-out will further weaken a depleted Pakistan bowling attack with two other frontline pacemen, Shabbir Ahmed and Umar Gul, already ruled out of Pakistan's first tour of India in six years.

He denied the decision was linked to a $500 fine handed down by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Thursday for a disco outing during the recent tour of Australia and three other counts of indiscipline.

"No, I have nothing to say on the penalties, I don't want to have breakdowns on the tour," said Akhtar, who broke down during the Sydney Test last month and twice in the tri-series before returning home.

Akhtar, regarded as one of the fastest bowlers in cricket alongside Australian Brett Lee, said he would still try to play the One-day series scheduled for late March and early April.

"I have informed the Pakistan Cricket Board of my decision and will inform them as soon as I get fit so if the team needs me at that stage I am available.

"I would love to play the One-day series provided the team needs me."

The 29-year-old, who suffered the injury during Pakistan's tour of Australia last month, aggravated it while training two days ago and consulted former players and specialists before reaching a decision.

"I am a fast bowler and face such injuries. But this is an honest assessment that I can't be fully fit and that I need time to get match fit before I play on an important tour like India," said Akhtar.

Akhtar has taken 144 wickets in 36 Tests and his 186 One-day Internationals have fetched him 120 wickets since making debut in 1997.

He became the first bowler to bowl over 100 miles per hour on two occasions but his career has been dogged by a row over his action -- which was reported illegal on three occasions -- as well as by injuries and off-field controversies.

Akhtar has been on the wrong end of the PCB's displeasure since his departure from Australia and the publication of pictures of him in a disco in Australian and Pakistani newspapers.

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