Rana likely to be out of England tour
Pakistan are striving hard to match England in the `injured absent' department after receiving another blow before this summer's tour with news that Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's groin injury is more serious than was originally thought and it may rule him out of part, or the entire series.
Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, confirmed to Cricinfo that the niggle Rana picked up during a county match for Sussex has now become a major concern. "We are worried about it yes. We're still not sure what it is but as soon as I heard about him picking up the niggle I thought it might be serious. He has little problems in that area before and he might have had it during the series against England and India last year but it is difficult to pick up."
Woolmer explained that the preliminary tests carried out by Darren Lifsun point to a condition called Gilmore's groin (named apparently after the surgeon who discovered it) "It could be Gilmore's groin but we're not sure as there are not many players in Pakistan who have suffered from it. Ashley Giles had a problem with it in the past."
If that is the problem, then it is thought Rana might need surgery or an extended period of rest, both of which would require six weeks out of the game. Woolmer said Rana had not been training with the team over the last week, instead concentrating on pool work. People may well be entitled to ask why he was then picked for the squad given that he was injured and had not trained. Pakistan are currently trying to contact a surgeon in Manchester who operated on Mohammad Hafeez when he was suffering from the same problem. A PCB official told Cricinfo that Sussex, Rana's county might be contacted to find out more about the injury. The PCB's medical commission has advised Naved to fly to England on Saturday where he has an appointment with a Sussex doctor two days later. Possible replacements for Rana include Rao Iftikhar Anjum or Samiullah Niazi.
The injury to Rana is more bad news for Pakistan's pace attack, seen by most as holding the key to a successful series against England this summer. Last week it was confirmed that Shoaib Akhtar was unlikely to play any part in the series.
And Rana's absence could be just as crucial. It was against England last year that he made his breakthrough as a Test bowler, picking up five wickets in Faisalabad. More importantly, conditions in England appear almost tailor-made for his skiddy, experimental, swinging, seaming bowling; in 14 county matches since he joined Sussex last summer he has taken 88 wickets. This season, in five matches he had taken 34 wickets at 15.29 and in tandem with Mushtaq Ahmed (47 wickets in seven matches), led Sussex to the top of the County championship, before he came back to Pakistan.
It leaves Pakistan with four fit fast bowlers in Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul and Shahid Nazir. Of those Nazir hasn't played a Test since 1999, Sami is just coming back into the team, following a crisis of confidence and permanently erratic form and Gul only returned from a long lay-off for his back earlier this year against India. Unsurprisingly, Woolmer said, they "would be wrapped in cotton wool." Everyone else, though, is beginning to wonder whether Pakistan is just England in disguise, given the latter's calamitous injury count in recent times.