Fast bowler confident about his future in international cricket February 1, 2008

Don't need a central contract to play for Pakistan - Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar: "I have no problems against the [Pakistan] board for not giving me a contract" © AFP

Shoaib Akhtar has refused the special retainership he was offered by the PCB after being overlooked for a central contract. But the fast bowler insists he is optimistic over his international future.

Based on a formula devised by the board, taking into account players' performance over the last six months, 15 players were awarded contracts, but Shoaib was overlooked. He was, instead, demoted to a retainership, having been awarded a Category A contract last year.

"Central contracts are not an issue because I play for my country and not for money. I will not accept retainership," Shoaib said after training at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, with Pakistan's 15-man squad for the fifth ODI against Zimbabwe. Having sought permission from the team management, Shoaib bowled in the nets for an hour and said later he was optimistic over his future.

"I have no problems against the board for not giving me a contract. In fact, thinking of financial gains instead of putting the needs of my country first would've been a source of embarrassment on my part," he said. "I turned up for my country when I was ill because I was required [during the Test series against India] and I will do so again whenever required. I'm fit, I'm strong and I'm ready to resume my international career with Pakistan with or without a contract."

Although ruing the missed opportunity to play against Zimbabwe, Shoaib confirmed that he will take part in the forthcoming Pentangular Cup in order to prove his fitness and form. Omitted from the squad for the Zimbabwe series, the PCB had requested Shoaib to prove his match fitness by participating in the tournament before being eligible for selection for the series against Australia.

"I will certainly take part [in the Pentangular Cup] and prove my fitness. I don't know what the fuss was about prior to the series [against Zimbabwe]. Omission from a squad is part and parcel of the game. Even Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis went through that phase. However, I wanted to play the series as it would've proved useful in preparing for the Australian series. They [the Australians] will not be easy to beat even though we will be playing at home."

Shoaib also played down reports that he was more interested in seeking a career in Bollywood, reiterating that cricket remained his focus. "It's my life and I can do what I want. I don't know why the PCB is making a huge fuss of all this especially when I haven't even signed anything yet. For the moment it's cricket but I might think about a film career when it comes to it.

It has been speculated that Shoaib was demoted primarily due to reasons of discipline and fitness, arising from last year's tour to India. But Shoaib said he had the coach's backing and had done nothing wrong.

"There were no issues of discipline with me on the Indian tour and coach Geoff Lawson praised my attitude and concentration, so all those things were baseless that I fell short on discipline."

Shoaib Malik, Pakistan's captain, said the fast bowler's return to fitness was an encouraging sign for the future of the team. "He is a great bowler and an asset to the team," Malik said. "His fitness and form will only benefit Pakistan, especially with a tough series against Australia coming up."

Faras Ghani is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo