India in Pakistan, 2005-06 January 8, 2006

Typhoid might rule out Yasir Hameed

Waheed Khan

Yasir Hameed, down with typhoid, might miss the first Test against India © Getty Images

Yasir Hameed, the Pakistan opener, is a doubtful starter for the first Test against India after falling ill with typhoid leaving all-rounder Shoaib Malik with a good chance of retaining the responsibility of opening with Salman Butt. Inzamam-ul-Haq told The News on Saturday that Yasir was a front-runner in the strategy of the team management to open with Butt against India but he unfortunately had fallen ill and had not joined the training camp.

"He has been diagnosed as suffering from severe typhoid and I am not sure if he would be able to recover in time for the first Test. We have spoken to him and he is still under treatment in Peshawar," Inzamam. Yasir, 27, who has played 17 Tests and 48 One-day Internationals, had scored a half-century in his last appearance for Pakistan against England in the final one-dayer in Rawalpindi last month and Inzamam admitted going by his good form in domestic cricket the idea was to open with him. "But now we have to think about the other options available to us," Inzamam said.

He ruled out the chances of Rafatullah Mohmand, the uncapped Peshawar opener, being asked to open against India. "He is still too raw and would not be the right choice for such a high pressure game," the veteran of 105 Tests and 351 one-dayers said. He also confirmed that wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal who has opened and scored three hundreds in one-day cricket was considered as an option to open with Butt in the Tests but the idea was dropped. "I don't think it would be fair on him because is our wicket-keeper and it would be asking too much of him to keep and then go and face the new ball. As it is his batting is very useful down the order," Inzamam stated.

He said if Yasir didn't recover in time obviously Pakistan would have limited options available to it as far as finding an opening pair was concerned. Shoaib Malik was promoted as an opener in the last four Tests played by Pakistan including the recent three at home against England and he did a decent job of the responsibility putting on three half-century stands with Butt against the English team. But sources in the Pakistan camp said that Inzamam and Bob Woolmer had doubts if Malik could go on to become a long-term opener and wanted to go for a specialist pair against India whose seam attack was not as threatening as England's.

"Their choices are limited and eventually Malik might again be given this responsibility as things stand," the source said. Interestingly, the national selectors are said to be pushing for the inclusion of opener Imran Farhat in the team if Yasir is not available, something they might find difficult to do before the team announcement despite the discarded left-hander's good form at the domestic level.

The selectors are expected to announce a squad of 14 for the first Test on Sunday with Wasim Bari, the chief selector, and Ehteshamuddin both being present at the Bagh-e-Jinnah Ground on Saturday for the Indians and Pakistan A tour match. One other option available to Pakistan is to open with the hard-hitting Shahid Afridi who himself prefers to bat lower down the order and has got good scores at this spot in the last four Tests played by Pakistan. Inzamam said the preparations of the Pakistan team for the first Test were progressing smoothly and he was confident the players were in the right mood to take on the Indians."I have said before this is going to be a hard series as both are evenly balanced sides. Whoever plays well on a particular day will win. Which is why we are giving so much thought to the opening spots," he said.

Luckily for Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar who took 17 wickets against England has also recovered in time from a bout of food poisoning, which laid him low for the last three days with severe vomiting and fever. But Shoaib joined the camp on Saturday and also held nets with the other players and appeared to be in good shape