Pakistan unsure about Shoaib, Asif for Champions Trophy

July 9th, 2008 - 7:03 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Shoaib Akhtar

Karachi, July 9 (IANS) Pakistani cricket selectors are still awaiting a “go-ahead” for the inclusion of their pace spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif in the 30-man probables list for this September’s Champions Trophy. All competing nations have to submit their provisional squads to the International Cricket Council (ICC) by July 11 for the Champions Trophy, which is to be held in Pakistan.

Several of the eight competing nations have already announced their preliminary squads but Pakistan have delayed naming their probables list because question marks are still hanging over the availability of Shoaib and Asif.

Chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed told IANS Wednesday that the “selection committee is awaiting a go-ahead on the availability of the two fast bowlers”.

Salahuddin said the selectors can only pick players who are eligible for national duty.

Pakistan are aware that they will have to recall the pace duo to have any realistic chance of winning the Champions Trophy following an embarrassing exit from the Asia Cup held on home soil. Pakistan failed to qualify for the final of the six-nation event and it was their impotent bowling that was responsible for their poor showing in the tournament.

But both Shoaib and Asif face a few problems in the way of their international return.

Shoaib has been out of the Pakistan squad since after featuring in the tour of India last year because of disciplinary reasons. He was banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board April 1 but recently the Lahore High Court (LHC) temporarily suspended the ban, which means the Rawalpindi Express is available for national duty.

But PCB officials and the national selectors are unsure about Shoaib’s fitness and want an assessment over it before naming him in the provisional squad.

Shoaib himself has said that he would be fully fit for the Champions Trophy and has announced plans to begin training in England soon to get back into shape for the elite eight-nation tournament.

Asif’s case is even more complicated. The lanky pacer is facing a PCB ban after he was caught in Dubai with a banned substance last month. He was detained in Dubai before being deported to Pakistan after almost 19 days in detention. A three-man PCB committee is to probe the case but is yet to begin proceedings.

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