December 8, 2000

Wasim's withdrawal controversial

Karachi, Dec 7: Wasim Akram withdrew from the third and final cricket Test against England in controversial circumstances to prompt speculation that it was not the back spasm but something else which kept him away from the game.

Wasim had an extensive work-out with the Pakistan team before the toss. But when teams were exchanged, Wasim's name was missing.

Though Wasim tried to convince a few journalists that he stiffened his back during sleep, it is anybody's guess if a player has back trouble, it is not possible for him to bowl at full run-up, attend fielding and warmup sessions.

"It is a face-saving explanation. It would have been an insult for such a great player had it had been said he was dropped," a source said on the condition of anonymity.

It is not the first time Wasim has 'withdrawn' shortly before the start of the match. He did the same in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final at Bangalore against India when he pulled out from the match 15 minutes before toss.

Sources added that the entire selection committee and a few Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials were against playing Wasim in the background of his poor form. He only had the backing of skipper Moin Khan but he was vetoed.

With Wasim not playing because of a `back spasm', he faces an uncertain future. Pakistan's next assignment is the tour of New Zealand and it would require the legendary fast bowler to perform in the domestic Quaid-i-Azam Trophy to press a claim in the touring party.

The Quaid-i-Azam Trophy resumes after Ramazan and the Patron's Trophy to be competed by the departmental sides will also be played in January.

The team management's claim that Wasim had injury also is a hollow explanation

in the background that the bowler himself told a few English journalists on Thursday morning that he was looking forward to proving his critics wrong by performing in the Karachi Test.

Wasim tried to put up a brave face while talking to reporters emphasising that his career was far from over. He stressed that he had no control over his injury though he was keen to play in this game and excel with the red cherry. "This is an injury which most of the fast bowlers get," he said.