Former Pakistan greats rue Akhtar~~s absence

Published: Saturday, February 19, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistan cricket greats expressed dismay after top bowler Shoaib Akhtar pulled out of the upcoming Test tour of India with a hamstring injury.

Former captain Imran Khan said Pakistan, embarking on their first tour of India in six years next week, will struggle for wickets without the world's fastest bowler.

"Akhtar's absence will make a serious difference," Imran Khan said on Saturday.

"Whenever Akhtar has played for Pakistan he has featured in Pakistan's wins and obviously spinners are not going to be weapons for Pakistan against India," Khan said.

"The tour of India would not be as testing as of Australia because the wickets in India will suit Pakistani batsmen, but in Akhtar's absence Pakistan will find it hard to take 20 Indian wickets in a Test," he added.

Akhtar pulled out of the Test series on Friday, a day after being fined 500 dollars for indiscipline after pictures of him in a disco appeared in Australian and Pakistani newspapers.

He denied the fine influenced his decision to withdraw from the tour.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq put on a brave face on Friday, saying the team will try to overcome Akhtar's loss.

But former fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz said relations may be "strained" between Akhtar and his captain.

"I am amazed Inzamam not saying Akhtar's absence is a serious blow, Akhtar has taken 89 wickets in the last 15 Tests he played for Pakistan and this shows their relationship is strained," said Nawaz.

He said the withdrawal of the 29-year-old 'Rawalpindi Express', who has taken 144 wickets in 36 Tests and 186 in 120 One-day Internationals since his debut in 1997, would hearten India.

"It (Akhtar's pull out) means full enjoyment for India and pressure on the hosts is released as they know the fiery pacer is not coming," said Nawaz.

Pakistan's chief selector Wasim Bari also rued Akhtar's absence.

"It will make a difference but we have to live with it because you can't do anything when a bowler is injured," said Bari.

Akhtar has said he is hoping to be fit for the One-day matches with India starting in late March.

Pakistan lost both the Test and One-day series against India last year when the fierce rivals resumed cricketing ties broken in June 2000.

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