Shoaib Akhtar returns to Pakistan squad

August 12th, 2008 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  


Karachi, Aug 12 (IANS) Shoaib Akhtar, who was banned for five years for repeated breaches of discipline four months back, makes a return to the Pakistan squad for next month’s Champions Trophy. Shoaib, who turns 33 Wednesday, was included in a 15-member squad for the eight-nation tournament in a bid to add some firepower to the bowling attack that seemed quite toothless in the Asia Cup earlier this summer.

The unavailability of fellow pacer Mohammad Asif, who is facing a ban after failing a dope test conducted during the Indian Premier League (IPL), also made the selectors choose Shoaib.

Shoaib spearheads a pace attack that includes fit-again Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar Anjum and rookie Abdul Rauf.

Gul, who recovered from a rib injury, was included in the squad after being cleared a fitness test Monday. All-rounder Shahid Afridi and opener Salman Butt - who missed last week’s practice games in Multan because of health-related issues - also cleared fitness tests and managed to make the cut for the Champions Trophy.

Wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, who was dropped from the Asia Cup following a spate of poor performances, is also back in the squad, replacing young Sarfraz Ahmed.

But it was the return of Shoaib that was the highlight of the day.

Four months back he seemed down and out after being banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for five years over misconduct.

He appealed against the decision and the ban was reduced to 18 months but the appellate committee imposed a fine of Rs 7 million. Shoaib is yet to serve the ban or pay the fine but has been recalled for national duty as the Lahore High Court (LHC) suspended his ban till September.

Chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed said Shoaib has been included after the bowler proved his form and fitness. “Shoaib has convinced us that he is fully fit,” he said.

“He really bowled well in the practice games and we are sure that he would do well in the Champions Trophy.”

Missing from the line-up is star batsman Mohammad Yousuf, who requested to be overlooked for the Champions Trophy because the dates are clashing with the holy month of Ramadan. In his place, the selectors have recalled middle-order batsman Bazid Khan.

Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq (vice-captain), Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Bazid Khan, Shahid Afridi, Khalid Latif, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir Abdul Rauf, Saeed Ajmal.

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