Shabbir's career hangs on ICC hearing
Shabbir Ahmed, the Pakistan medium-pacer who was recently banned for a year for a faulty bowling action, will quit the game if nothing positive comes out of the ICC appeals meeting in Dubai on Saturday. Shabbir said it was possibly the "biggest day" for him and he woudn't be able to continue playing if there was no improvement in the situation.
He added he was disappointed at missing out on such a big series against India, especially since he had always dreamt of being part of an India-Pakistan series. Speaking about the measures he has taken to rectify his action, Shabbir was hopeful of playing in the one-day series starting in the first week of February.
Shabbir, who has been working on his action with Sarfraz Nawaz, the former Pakistan fast bowler, spoke about the changes he was trying to make: "I use my wrist a lot while delivering the ball," he told Cricinfo. "It used to go back too much and that affected my elbow movement. I hope to correct that." Sarfraz explained it in more detail: "He used to hold the ball tight in his fingers, and his palm was facing skywards when he was running into bowl just before he whipped his hand back and released the ball. His right hand used to be very close to his body when he was in his run-up.
"We have got him to move the right hand slightly away, and we have made corrections to his elbow and wrist positions. His right arm is coming a little more from the side instead of straight down, and we have also made the rotation of the arm faster." Confident that his effectiveness wouldn't be reduced in any way, Shabbir said: "I mainly rely on bounce and I will get that anyway, because of my height and high-arm action."
His mentor, Sarfraz, took it one step further and said Shabbir would not only come back strongly but would become a lethal force in the next couple of months. "We tried out various actions before making the necessary corrections," he said, "and I am confident now that he has corrected his action.
"If he is allowed to play again, then I am confident that in the next four to six months he will be a lethal bowler. Pakistan will have a genuine pace bowling combination of Shoaib Akhtar and Shabbir if he continues to make the kind of progress he has shown in the last few days. He will be unplayable on seaming wickets. If all goes well, Shabbir will be the new star and people will forget Shoaib in some time."
Sarfraz said they were targeting a return to international cricket on February 6 in the first one-dayer against India in Peshawar. "His fitness is a bit low because he has not played cricket for two months," he said, "and of course any bowler will feel the strain of being banned from bowling. There will be self doubts, but we are working hard to keep him focussed and positive.
"There was the odd delivery that was suspect when he bowled the bouncer in the second innings of the Multan Test against England, but I am confident he will be cleared this time and there will no problem in future - not when he is tired, not when he is bowling the bouncer or the yorker."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo