PCB refuses to release Gul and Asif April 12, 2007

Gloucestershire keep close tabs on Gul

Cricinfo staff

Gloucestershire are still hoping Umar Gul will join them for part of this season © Getty Images

Gloucestershire are hopeful Umar Gul, the Pakistan fast bowler, will be available for some part of the coming season despite the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB's) refusal to release him. Gul and Mohammad Asif have been instructed by the PCB to refrain from accepting any contracts owing to their fitness problems.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Tom Richardson, Gloucestershire's chief executive, said the club was very keen on Gul. "This is disappointing news. We've been trying over the last few days to secure Umar Gul's release. We're still hopeful we'll be able to get him over here for a period of time this summer. That said we are, of course, looking at alternatives."

Gloucestershire, in the expectation that Pakistan would be in the Super Eights stage of the World Cup, signed Ashley Noffke, the Queensland fast bowler and recent recipient of the Ian Healy Trophy, as cover for the early part of the summer.

Gul isn't the only bowler likely to miss out as the PCB crack down on the multitude of fitness problems their fast bowlers have faced in the last year: Mohammad Asif, who was due to begin a second season at Leicestershire this season has also been asked to not play.

Zakir Khan, director of cricket operations of the board, told Reuters: "The bowlers have faced fitness problems and it hit the performance of the team. For the moment, we have told them not to accept any contracts.

"The board is in the process of finalising a comprehensive international and domestic programme after the World Cup. We want all our pacers fit and available," Zakir said.

Younis Khan and Danish Kaneria are also due to represent Yorkshire and Essex respectively but no decision has been made as to whether they will be allowed to honour their contracts or not.

A number of Pakistan players, after returning from the West Indies, have been involved in the ongoing Pentangular Cup and Pakistan's next international assignment is a proposed three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka has been planned for May. If that does not materialise then they have a clear international schedule until September.