Vol. 5 Num 263 Tue. February 22, 2005  

Wasim finds Shoaib right

Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has backed fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's decision to withdraw from the Test series in India because of injury.

"I think he took the sensible decision. Because no bowler no matter how great is of any use to his team if he is struggling with an injury," Wasim told Reuters on Sunday.

"Shoaib should concentrate on regaining his fitness properly and then make a comeback in the one-day series in India but Pakistan will miss him in the Test matches."

Shoaib pulled out on Friday because of a hamstring problem but the Pakistan selectors will consider the 29-year-old for the one-day series is he is fit.

Wasim, who captained Pakistan to two Test wins in India on their last full tour of the country in 1999, was also pleased with the inclusion of off-spinner Arshad Khan, recalled to the squad after a five-year absence.

"The selectors have done well to recall Arshad Khan to partner Danish Kaneria. These two have a role to play to keep Pakistan in a Test on all five days," said the former fast bowler who took 414 Test wickets.

Meanwhile AFP adds from Lahore, Shoaib on Sunday denied suggestions that he pulled out of the tour of India due to fear of failure, saying he was genuinely injured and still wants to play in the one-dayers.

"I have not run away from the tour, why would I?

"I am disappointed to be missing the tour but people saying I have run away is more disheartening. If I get fit and the team needs me I will play the one-day series."

The 29-year-old, dubbed the Rawalpindi Express for his pace, said it would take him at least a month to recover from a hamstring injury.

"I like to run towards the field and not away from it but what people don't understand is that a fast bowler can't play every game because it's too hard to do that," said Shoaib.

"It (the tour) would have given me a chance to make up for my not so good performance in the series we lost to India," said Shoaib. He took a meager seven wickets in Pakistan's 2-1 Test series loss to their arch-rivals last year.

His pull-out has further weakened a depleted Pakistan bowling attack with two other frontline pacemen -- Shabbir Ahmed and Umar Gul -- already out due to injuries.

The pace attack of the team, announced on Saturday, will now be led by Shoaib's new ball partner Mohammad Sami. He will be assisted by Navedul Hasan, left-armer Mohammad Khalil and all-rounder Abdul Razzaq.

Pakistan's former greats Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz have termed Shoaib's absence a serious blow to Pakistan's chances on the tour.