Shoulder injury forced Rana out
Rana Naved-ul-Hasan's surprising omission from the second Test at Faisalabad was the result of a minor shoulder injury. Speaking to Cricinfo, Rana said, "It is not a major worry but I don't think I could have played. I hurt it while fielding in a practice session and it didn't feel right. I have had it checked with the doctors who have given me the all-clear."
The injury, according to Rana, is a long-standing one: "It was an injury I picked up in Mohali against India when we toured last year and it flared up a little in practice after I hurt my shoulder catching a ball." News of Rana's impending exclusion had emerged late on the eve of the second Test but it was only confirmed in the morning when Abdul Razzaq was announced as his replacement.
At the time, it was widely thought that the choice of Razzaq was a defensive move, Pakistan preferring to strengthen a batting line-up that had plundered not only 679 runs in Lahore but also 636 last month against England in the final Test on the same ground. With India scoring 410 for the loss of a solitary wicket, many felt Pakistan had erred on the side of caution by weakening their bowling attack.
Razzaq had not played a Test match since June last year, missing the Test series against England with an elbow injury and the first Test against India after falling ill with typhoid a couple of weeks before the match began. Additionally, Razzaq's relative decline as a bowler in recent years enhanced the case for retaining a specialist frontline bowler.
In his last ten Tests, Razzaq has taken 23 wickets at an average of nearly 44 and a strike-rate approaching 80. Rana's figures are less impressive - he has taken 16 wickets in his eight Test appearances thus far at an average of nearly 60 - but after a relatively successful series against England, his place as an opening partner to Shoaib Akhtar was thought to be secure in the short-term.
But there was some doubt about the extent of Rana's injury, for Bob Woolmer told Cricinfo he might have been fit enough to play. "Rana has a little shoulder niggle. He would probably have been ok to play but that is also because he would play anyway given the chance such is his commitment. He is like that."
Woolmer added that on this pitch, Razzaq's bowling might stand a greater chance of success. "We just thought Razzaq would be a better bet as a bowler on this pitch. There isn't much help for swing bowling here. It looks more probably a better pitch for seam and cut off the pitch and Razzaq gives us that."
A grueling season for Rana, in which as well as playing numerous ODIs and Tests, he also played for Sussex during the summer was also a factor said Woolmer. "He was a little off-colour in Lahore and we decided he just needs a rest. He has been playing for a long time now, including the season for Sussex." Rana went for 94 off 16 overs in Lahore, picking up the only wicket of Virender Sehwag.
Woolmer was keen to assert that Razzaq was playing as a bowler in Faisalabad. "Having missed some cricket Razzaq is very hungry to play. We are operating a rotation policy so we thought we should give him a try. He is playing as a bowler and he will bowl a considerable amount."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo.