Fit again Shoaib targets Windies return

Published: Friday, April 15, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said he hoped to play a lead role on the team's tour of the West Indies next month after missing the current series against India due to injury.

"I will regret missing the series against India for the rest of my career," Akhtar, who pulled out of the India tour at the last minute due to a hamstring problem, told AFP on Thursday.

"But I am fully fit now and raring to go for the West Indies tour. I want to play a lead role," said Akhtar, who has played four domestic matches in the last three weeks to prove his fitness.

The 29-year-old paceman, regarded as one of the fastest bowlers in the world, suffered the injury on Pakistan's tour of Australia in January this year.

But his withdrawal, regarded at the time as a potentially fatal blow to his team's chances, inspired Pakistan's back-up bowlers to help Pakistan level the three-match Test series 1-1.

Pakistan play India in the fifth of six One-dayers in Kanpur on Friday, after levelling the series with a sensational last ball win at Ahmedabad on Tuesday.

Akhtar's hamstring injury took more time to heal than expected, depriving him of a possible return in the One-day series in India.

"I would have loved to play the one-day series but still had some ground to cover so I did not hasten my return, as advised by Imran Khan and chief selector Wasim Bari," said Akhtar, who has 144 Test and 186 one-day wickets.

"People in India love me so I have missed the series of a lifetime."

Under South African physion Grant Compton, Akhtar says he regained full fitness last month but was asked to prove his fitness in domestic matches.

"Now my eyes are on the tour of the West Indies. We have never won a series there and I want to play the lead role to achieve that," said Akhtar.

Pakistan will play three One-days and two Tests in the Caribbean.

Akhtar, dubbed the Rawalpindi Express for his pace, has been plagued by fitness problems since making his Test debut in 1998.

He was forced to sit out Pakistan's last tour of the West Indies in 2000 and spurned a chance to play for Nottinghamshire the same year.

"I have set strict fitness regimes for myself and would like to play on a consistent level," said Akhtar, who will play for Worcestershire in the English season after Pakistan's tour of the West Indies.

Akhtar, who played for Durham last year, will line up with Sri Lankan pacer Chaminda Vaas and South African Zander de Bruyn for his new county.

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