Yousuf pulls out of Champions Trophy
Mohammad Yousuf has made himself unavailable for Pakistan's Champions Trophy campaign in September, thus further depleting Pakistan's 30-man list of probables for the tournament.
The announcement of the squad has already been delayed twice so far, initially because of disagreement between the board and selectors over some names on the list, as well as uncertainty over Shoaib Akhtar's eligibility.
The names were supposed to be made public today, but the revelation that Mohammad Asif, one of the names in the squad, was the player who tested positive in a dope test at the IPL, meant another delay. The names will, the board now says, be announced tomorrow.
But Yousuf will not be among them. Cricinfo has learnt that Yousuf will be unavailable because the tournament will be played during the month of Ramadan. "Yousuf has asked to be excused from the Champions Trophy as it will be held during Ramadan and he does not want to be playing during that month," a source close to the selection committee told Cricinfo. "We have respected that decision and not picked him in the squad."
Though Yousuf had made the request to the board a while back, final confirmation only came today. Mohammad Hafeez is likely to take his place in the list of probables. Incidentally, Yousuf played during Ramadan last year - against South Africa - and the year before in the Champions Trophy in India.
His decision will come as a blow to a squad already likely to be missing Asif. Uncertainty remains over the inclusion in the final 15 of Shoaib, and possibly Umar Gul as well, who is yet to recover from an injury sustained during the Asia Cup.
Yousuf has been Pakistan's middle-order rock over the last 12 months, scoring over 1100 runs at an average of nearly 70, with three 100s and eight 50s. And he hasn't just milked minnows such as Bangladesh or Zimbabwe; in 14 matches against India and South Africa, he averages over 60, with six fifties and a hundred.
As Yousuf Youhana, he was one of the few Christians to have played for Pakistan and the only one to have captained the side. But he publicly announced his conversion to Islam in September 2005 and has since been a devout, practicing Muslim. Ramadan is among the holiest months in the Islamic calendar, where Muslims are expected to fast between sunrise and sunset. Pakistan players have on occasion played while fasting in the past and it is popularly thought that some were fasting during the 1992 World Cup.