Shoaib's New Year curse
The first major controversy of Shoaib Akhtar's career was at its height over a New Year period. He had been called for throwing and urgent negotiations between Tauqir Zia, the chairman of Pakistan's cricket board, and his pal Jagmohan Dalmiya, the president of the ICC, ended in Shoaib's return to international cricket in front of a cheering crowd in Australia.
With Pakistan's squad announcement for the South African Test series, Shoaib finds himself sitting it out again over New Year with the prospect of a recall for the one-day series. You suspect that the spectre of WADA has something to do with this too. Personally, I'd have taken him to South Africa to ensure he regains fitness under the scrutiny of team management. Unless Shoaib--like Mohammad Asif--is banned by the ICC, Pakistan need him back fit and in form for the World Cup, and that means he has to play the one-day series in South Africa.
For Shoaib's part, he needs to be careful. It is clear that he enjoys considerably less sympathy from the Pakistani cricket fraternity than Asif does. This remains a dangerous period in his career. And if his fitness continues to fail he will rapidly lose the remnants of support he has among Pakistan cricket fans. The public loves to celebrate heroes but it also loves nothing more than cursing fallen idols. Shoaib has to put concerns about WADA to one side and show that he is ready to play if he is allowed to. Anything else will be negligent. Can Shoaib--and the Pakistan selectors--rise to the challenge?
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here