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November 24, 2007
Umar Gul's troublesome back, which forced him out of the first Test against India, is likely to rule him out of the second Test at Eden Gardens as well.
Gul was ruled out of the ongoing Test at Feroze Shah Kotla a day before it began, due to a back sprain which the Pakistan management initially described as not very serious. But Salahuddin Ahmed, the chief selector currently in Delhi, told PTI they were considering calling up some cover.
"I don't think Gul will be fit for the second Test. We may bring Rao Iftikhar Anjum back to India," Salahuddin said. "Iftikhar did very well in ODIs against South Africa," he added.
Gul might ultimately be sent back to Pakistan, according to unconfirmed reports. A decision is expected to be taken in the next couple of days after a thorough assessment of his medical report by the Pakistan board's medical commission. Gul's MRI reports have been sent to the commission, which is expected to send back an opinion in the next couple of days.
Though his replacement for this Test, Sohail Tanvir, has made an impressive debut with three wickets in the first innings, Gul's absence will be a big blow to Pakistan. Since his return from three stress fractures of the back that nearly ended his career two years ago, he has been one of the stars of Pakistan's pace attack.
But despite adding some bulk to what was initially a fragile frame, he has not been averse to injuries, missing the entire tour to South Africa last winter with a shin injury. Pakistan will dearly hope that this problem isn't a recurrence of his earlier back injuries.
The development continues a horrendous trend of Pakistan's fast bowlers missing matches and series for a variety of reasons. They are already without Mohammad Asif, out with an elbow injury, on this tour.
And the various scandals and injuries that have dogged Shoaib Akhtar over the last two years has meant that a potentially world-beating first-choice attack of Asif, Shoaib and Gul has yet to turn out together in an international match. The earliest that can happen now is the Australian tour in March 2008.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.