'Shoaib's chucking controversy over' - PCB
Shaharyar Khan, chairman PCB, has once again dismissed speculation surrounding Shoaib Akhtar's action, following Shoaib's latest injury suffered during the conditioning camp in Lahore.
Shaharyar told The News, "We believe that the episode related to Shoaib's chucking controversy is over. He has been cleared to bowl by the ICC and will be playing for Pakistan in England if he regains full fitness."
Shaharyar was responding to a statement made by Andy Roberts, legendary and fearsome quarter of the West Indian pace quartet of the seventies and eighties, who said recently that both the game's fastest modern-day bowlers - Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee - have a "suspect action". Roberts also said he was not alone in thinking so.
Roberts told The Indian Express, "They don't have many good quality fast bowlers right now. The only two fast bowlers that I can see and talk of, one is Brett Lee and the other is Shoaib Akhtar, and both, in my mind, are suspect."
Roberts, who is now associated with an initiative to promote Twenty20 in the Caribbean, added, "I am not the only one, most of the world thinks so. I have watched them. Brett Lee is a very good athlete. I think he's one of the best athletes in the Australian team. But one or two of his deliveries are suspect. Shoaib is a different case. Looking at Shoaib, you wonder. You look at Shoaib from side-on, you look at him from the back, I wonder if hyperextension can be that and all that they say it is."
His comments about Shoaib echo those of one-time partner-in-pace Michael Holding, who told Cricinfo magazine in an interview recently that he felt no action was being taken against Shoaib because he was a big name player. Like Holding Roberts also criticised the ICC, claiming that by allowing every bowler the 15 degree limit, the ICC was "encouraging chucking." Both players comments come after Greg Chappell, coach of India, reignited the latest bout of innuendo and intrigue by calling Shoaib's action "seriously different" while India toured Pakistan earlier this year.
There was speculation at that time that the ICC had been in touch with the PCB to privately express concern about his action but Shaharyar - as he did in February - was adamant that there has been no communication and that as far as they were concerned, the action was clean.
"We have received nothing from the ICC or any other individual over Shoaib's action," said Shaharyar. "And I don't expect to receive any complaint either because had it been an issue it would have been raised much earlier."
Shaharyar argued that if Shoaib's action was not clean, he should have been reported after Pakistan won the Test series against England at home last year when he took 17 wickets or after the series against India earlier this year.
The latest injury - a twisted ankle - has forced Shoaib to rest for a week and comes on the back of four months of injury problems. He was forced to sit out the ODIs against India because of another ankle problem and then underwent twin knee surgery in Australia soon after. It is thought, though, that this recent problem is unlikely to affect his chances of being fit in time for the England tour - MRI scans earlier in the week confirmed no recurrence of the earlier stress fracture.
Meanwhile, Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's coach, is keen for Shoaib to be given as much time as possible to recover from his strained ankle. "He is a very important bowler for us and he has won us matches with his speed in the past. He is keen to make the squad but we have to wait and see how he comes through after he bowls in match simulated conditions," Woolmer told Reuters.
"We want to get him fit as soon as possible. But we don't want to rush things and take a risk of another long-term injury. The good news is that MRI scans have shown it is not a recurrence of the ankle stress fracture," Woolmer added.
He also said the hardest phase of training for the England tour would start on June 12. "That is when the fitness levels of all the players should become clear. So Shoaib has time to rest his strained ankle."