Pakistan gets Gul boost ahead of World Cup

Published: Friday, February 23, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistan's injury-hit bowling line-up got a boost ahead of the World Cup on Friday with the recovery of paceman Umar Gul.

The 24-year-old Gul, who returned home from Pakistan's tour of South Africa earlier this month with an ankle injury, featured in Pakistan's tune-up camp for the World Cup which started here from Friday.

"I am feeling great and have been bowling at full speed for the last few days," said Gul, whose suspected fracture had threatened to rule him out of the World Cup which starts in the Caribbean from March 13.

Pakistan has set a February 28 deadline for all its 15 players to pass a fitness test before the team leaves on March 1. The squad must also take doping tests.

Bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif -- who were banned last year after testing positive for steroids but reinstated on appeal -- have yet to take theirs as they are still assessing ongoing fitness problems.

The 31-year-old Akhtar is due to leave for England on Sunday for a final check on his knee and hamstring injuries. Asif is also suffering from recurrence of an elbow injury which forced him to miss three out of four Tests on Pakistan's tour of England last year.

Gul said he has worked hard to regain fitness.

"It was disappointing to miss the South African tour but it motivated me to work hard with trainer Murray Stevenson and I am now bowling from my full run-up and hope by the time the World Cup starts I will be fully fit," he said.

"We have two warm-up matches and hopefully they will give me the needed match practice and then I will be able to deliver for my team."

The Peshawar-born Gul, who has 30 wickets in 25 one-dayers, made his mark by taking five wickets in his debut Test at Lahore against India in 2004.

But back trouble forced him to sit out the whole of 2005 and he returned only last year to spearhead Pakistan's attack.

"I am ready to perform my duties and hopefully we will have a fit bowling attack which can help the team win," he said.


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