Akhtar, Malik included in Asia Cup squad


Umar Farooq June 03, 2010

LAHORE: Pakistan’s controversial fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar is set to make his international comeback after he, and former captain Shoaib Malik who had his year-long ban lifted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), were named in the 15-man squad for the Asia Cup announced yesterday.

Also included in the squad was opener Imran Farhat while fast-bowler Umar Gul, who missed the 2010 World Twenty20, opted out of the tournament due to lack of fitness and former captain Younus Khan was overlooked.

“Akhtar and Malik passed their fitness tests have been included in the 15-man squad,” said PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt.

Akhar, 34, has been out of the national team due to fitness and disciplinary concerns and has not played for Pakistan since last May but following a good show in the Pentangular Cup and the fitness test, the PCB decided to give the fast-bowler another chance.

“It is true Akhtar hasn’t played for a while now but we feel that he still has one-and-a-half year of cricket left in him and we have to take full advantage of that,” said Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi who was also present at the press conference along with chief selector Mohsin Khan. “He’s a player who can adjust easily according to the conditions and we expect a lot from him and Malik who are both seasoned performers and experienced players.”

Malik, who was heavily criticised by players and team management in front of the inquiry committee that was formed in the wake of the disastrous tour of Australia, makes a swift comeback to the national side. The PCB, however, has reminded the players to maintain the level of discipline required by the team management and the board.

“As far as discipline is concerned, we won’t tolerate any indiscipline,” said Butt. “I admit the board made some mistakes in the past but now the team management has been given unlimited powers and they could send any player home who breaches the code of conduct.”

While the Shoaib duo made their return, Younus was omitted from the squad due to poor form. The former captain is currently undergoing his appeal hearing against allegations levied against him that prompted the PCB to overlook him for selection for an indefinite period.

Uncapped prospects

The PCB also named the 21-year-old left-hander Umar Amin along with the 24-year-old Asad Shafiq at the back of a prolific domestic season. The 20-year-old Shahzaib Hasan, who represented Pakistan in their triumphant 2009 World Twenty20, was also included in the squad though he is yet to make his One-Day International debut for Pakistan.

“We have three to four new players in the squad as well who we believe are the future of Pakistan,” said Butt. “Overall we have a good combination which will help us achieve better results.”

Published in the Express Tribune, June 4th, 2010.

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