England in Pakistan, 2005-06 November 3, 2005

Shoaib faces vital series

Cricinfo staff



Shoaib: facing a make-or-break series © Getty Images

Inzamam-ul-Haq has said that the series against England could be a turning point in Shoaib Akhtar's career. Shoaib has been heavily criticised for his poor attitude, but Inzamam says that he has shown excellent commitment during training.

"Shoaib has realised the series could be a turning point in his career. He is working hard on his fitness and is gearing up for the series," Inzamam told reporters.

Shoaib has not played for Pakistan since January, after flying home from a tour of Australia. His three-month county stint with Worcestershire was an inglorious affair, which led to John Elliott, the chairman, saying that Shoaib was "a big problem to handle."

He also failed to impress during the Super Series in Australia, where he bowled 17 overs for 110 runs in two one-day internationals, and was left out of the Test side. In recent weeks, following intense speculation about his fitness, Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, has said he wants to help Shoaib get fit and help Pakistan in the series.

The comments have reportedly prompted Shoaib to knuckle down ahead of the England series in the knowledge that time and patience is running out. In the last practice match Pakistan's players played last week, Shoaib came to life in the second innings; a blistering three-over burst saw three wickets including Shahid Afridi in the first over as well as Kamran Akmal, whose toe was bruised by a yorker.

Inzamam also added that the entire squad would need to be at the top of their game: "Pakistan need 100% commitment from everyone because England are a tough side and it will be a very tough series for us."

He was quick to stress that Pakistan have a unit of quick bowlers who can trouble England rather than just one man. "Pakistan has destructive fast bowlers and spinners and with their rhythm they can wreck any batting line-up in the world. Pakistan has quality pacers in Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, an attack which can cause trouble for any batting line-up."

Pakistan, who have lost six of their last nine home series and haven't won a Test series under Woolmer, have yet to settle on their final line-up but are likely to employ more spin to outwit England, with five slow-bowling options in their initial squad.