Pakistan news July 31, 2013

Gul eyes October return against SA

Umar Gul, the Pakistan fast bowler, has admitted he felt disappointed watching his team-mates play without him, but added he was not worried about the time he has lost due to injury. Gul is currently at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, undergoing rehabilitation following knee surgery. His return for the upcoming Zimbabwe tour remains unlikely, and he is eyeing the South Africa series in October after regaining full fitness.

Gul sustained the knee injury in March during the second ODI against South Africa in Centurion and has been sidelined since. He travelled to Australia for surgery and after six weeks of rest, began his rehabilitation. He, however, has restricted himself to the gym and bowling from a spot along with minor jogging. "I don't want to press for a hasty return," Gul told ESPNcricinfo. "According to the doctor, I could have started training after a four-week gap, but I don't want to take risks and would rather take my time to recover."

This isn't the first instance of Gul being forced to sit out due to injury. He faced a career-threatening situation when he was diagnosed with three stress fractures of the back during India's tour of Pakistan in 2004 and missed over a year of cricket. His present knee injury had ruled him out of the final Test against South Africa earlier this year. He came back to play the first two ODIs, but missed the rest of the series, the Champions Trophy and the recent West Indies tour.

"I am not worried about my lost time though it is a tough phase sitting out," said Gul, who is currently Pakistan's most experienced bowler with 47 Tests and 116 ODIs. "Yes, sometimes I do feel pinched watching my colleagues playing without me but they are doing a good job. Injuries are part of life as earlier I was out of action for more than a year [in 2004 and 2005]. This time it's not that serious but still surgery was required.

"I have been completely inactive in swinging my arms and obviously with such a gap you need to rework your strength though the basics remain the same," he said. "I am hoping to be fit by Zimbabwe but my main target is the South Africa series. I am currently just gaining back my strength with gym work and will start bowling with a run-up in the next three to four days."

Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan have become an integral part of the Pakistan attack, but Gul spoke about the importance of having a senior bowler with the mix of inexperienced fast bowlers.

"They are doing a good job but having a senior around will be very supportive for them," he said. "Every player has to cope with pressure but speaking to a senior player will help them to handle it better so it would be a privilege for me to stand for them at mid-on or mid-off and help them when they need me. I wanted a senior to stand beside me , talk to me and help me out of pressure situations and I used to have Shoaib Akhtar assisting me whenever I crumbled under pressure."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here