October 8, 1999

Afridi and M. Akram recalled for Sharjah tour

Karachi, Oct 7: The Pakistan cricket selectors left out Saqlain Mushtaq and Shoaib Akhtar on fitness grounds but recalled Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Akram for the three-nation Sharjah tournament starting Oct 13.

The two players were left out on fitness grounds as Saqlain underwent a knee surgery in England and Shoaib is recovering from a shoulder injury.

The selectors unanimously decided to put off the announcement of the team for the Australian tour until Oct 17. The team will now be named in Sharjah after the completion of the first round matches of the double-league tournament to be played between Oct 13 and 23 and to be participated by the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

"After the first round matches, we will be in a better position to know about the requirements and fitness of the players," chief selector Col (retd) Naushad Ali said here on Thursday.

He said Saqlain and Shoaib have been given more time to regain complete fitness for the Australian tour "which was far more important and demanding," Naushad said.

Saqlain was operated upon late last month while Shoaib travelled to Toronto for the three-match series against the West Indies but returned without playing after the injury aggravated.

"The injury to the two players is not very serious. But we don't want to take the risk of making them out of commission from the Australian tour by playing them in Sharjah," he remarked.

The absence of the two players proved to be a blessing in disguise for Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Akram who have been recalled for the desert tour.

Shahid, after a series of failures in the World Cup, was ignored for the tour of Toronto. He failed to lift his performance in the ongoing National One-day Championship but managed to captured 10 odd wickets for Habib Bank.

Mohammad Akram last toured with Pakistan last year on the tour of South Africa. His tour, however, was cut short when he was mugged and badly beaten in Johannesburg last year in January.

Rookie off-spinner Shoaib Malik is the only uncapped player in the team. The 17-year-old, with a Saqlain look-alike action, earned the selectors nod after a string of impressive bowling figures for PIA in the One-day Championship.

Shoaib Malik, who represented Pakistan in the 1996 Junior World Cup, is also an excellent fielder and a useful batsman besides being a shrewd and crafty bowler. Shoaib's drifter remains his secret which he has uses very intelligently.

The 16-man squad is:

Wasim Akram (captain), Moin Khan (vice-captain), Saeed Anwar, Wajahatullah Wasti, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Hasan Raza, Azhar Mahmood, Abdur Razzak, Arshad Khan, Shabbir Ahmad, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Akram, Aamir Sohail, Shoaib Malik and Waqar Younis.