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December 4, 2007
Iftikhar Anjum, Pakistan's right-arm medium-fast bowler, is being sent to India in time for the third Test at Bangalore to bolster its depleted pace-attack. The decision comes after injury to Umar Gul ruled him out of the entire Test series and illness to Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami that severely hampered Pakistan's performance in the second Test. It is understood that while Pakistan's team management in India had requested for Abdur Rauf, a bowling allrounder, to be sent, the Pakistan board preferred Anjum as a better replacement in light of his international experience.
Anjum, who has a solitary Test performance against his name, will join Sohail Tanvir who has played two Tests and Yasir Arafat - sent in as Gul's replacement - who is yet to make his Test debut in the bowling line-up along with Shoaib and Sami.
The decision of not sending Rauf, however, might have been made well before Anjum's approval. Shafqat Naghmi, PCB's chief operating officer, was quoted in the Pakistani media as expressing surprise and reluctance over Shoaib Malik asking for Rauf as cover especially in light of his moderate performance with the ball this season: 20 wickets in seven matches at an average of over 42.
"A lot of effort was made to ensure that Yasir [Arafat] reached Kolkata in time [for the second Test] and he did but still wasn't included in the playing line-up," Naghmi said. "Now we don't know for sure whether Rauf will be needed for the Bangalore Test which is why we have asked the captain to explain to us the reason why he needs him in India."
Another board official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Cricinfo the selectors would want to send in a fast bowler rather than an allrounder based on the team's performance. "With an allrounder [Arafat] sent earlier, the team needs a genuine fast bowler instead of Rauf," the official told Cricinfo.
His performance with the bat this season, an aggregate of 427 first-class runs in only seven matches, has elevated his status as an allrounder after previously been known only for his bowling skills and may have hampered Rauf's chances of joining the squad in India.
Sarfraz Ahmed, the young wicketkeeper who was sent as Kamran Akmal's replacement during the ODI series, is to return home. The team management deemed the presence of a reserve wicketkeeper surplus to requirement but wanted an extra fast bowler thus the swap.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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