Shoaib included in squad to face Australia
Shoaib Akhtar, who has recovered from his knee injury, has been included in the 15-man Pakistan squad for the five-match ODI series and a Twenty20 against Australia in the UAE, scheduled to begin on April 22. Shoaib was left out of Pakistan's tour of Bangladesh - which was suspended following unrest in the country - as he was declared unfit despite not requiring surgery.
Shoaib would be returning to the side after three months; he last played against Sri Lanka in the three-match ODI series at home, and was dropped for the decider following failures in the first two games. Shoaib, after learning of his inclusion, said he was looking forward to the Australian series.
"I can't wait to take the field against Australia," Shoaib told AFP. "I am fit and am gaining rhythm, and once I play the first match I will be at my best rhythm. I know this will be an important series for me, both form and fitness wise, so I will do my best to play all the matches and keep fitness."
Abdul Qadir, the PCB's chief selector, said the decision to select Shoaib was made after the board's medical panel, including the team trainer David Dwyer, approved of his fitness. "He did well in the fitness tests conducted by the board and appears match fit. He is an experienced bowler and he is a big boost for the team," Qadir said. "Now it's up to [Shoaib] Akhtar to not only remain fit but also perform. I have been saying this and I repeat that a fit Akhtar is an asset for Pakistan's team."
Australia were expected to tour Pakistan for a Test and ODI tour this year after their scheduled visit in 2008 failed to materialise over security fears. The PCB has sent a two-man security team to the UAE to assess the arrangements for the tour, in the wake of the Lahore attacks last month.
Dubai Sports City - which has never hosted an international match before - will be the venue for the first two one-dayers, starting April 22, and the Twenty20 on May 7. The remaining three ODIs will be played in Abu Dhabi between those dates.
Pakistan squad: Younis Khan (capt), Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal (wk), Fawad Alam, Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar, Yasir Arafat, Saeed Ajmal.