Pakistan in South Africa, 2006-07 December 28, 2006

Asif set to be picked for South Africa tour

Khalid Hussain



Mohammad Asif will be looking forward to bowling on the bouncy South African pitches after spending a considerable time away from international cricket following the drugs controversy © AFP

Pakistan are considering sending an extended 17-member squad for next month's tour of South Africa, according to Iqbal Qasim, who is standing in for chief selector Wasim Bari. The team is due to be announced on December 29.

Qasim, a former Test cricketer, said the selectors still have to take a couple of key decisions before announcing the squad. "We are undecided on the final composition and are also considering including an extra member in the squad," he said.

The national team probables are currently in a conditioning camp at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, ahead of the tour that begins on January 6 with a tour match against South Africa A.

Pakistan are unlikely to make any surprise changes in the Test squad that won the home series against the West Indies 2-0 earlier this season though Mohammad Asif, the Pakistan seamer involved in the drug controversy along with Shoaib Akhtar, is sure to make a comeback.

Shoaib, however, remains doubtful after having failed to impress much in the few domestic games he took part in recently.

Shoaib and Asif missed the Champions Trophy and the series against the West Indies because of the ban for testing positive for nandrolone. However, the two were cleared by an appeals committee earlier this month and are available for the tour of South Africa.

While Asif has proved his form and fitness in the recently concluded Twenty20 Cup, Shoaib is yet to convince the selectors.

Qasim, who was in Lahore to witness the conditioning camp on December 27, refrained from commenting on Shoaib's physical fitness. "We have seen Shoaib play in domestic matches and also in the camp," he said. "The bowler remains in contention for a place in the team."

If Shoaib is overlooked for the tour of South Africa, Mohammad Sami is most likely to get the selectors' nod.

Sami was dropped from the Test squad against West Indies after a disappointing tour of England this summer in which he took eight wickets at 58.25 from three Tests. But he returned for the last two one-day games against West Indies and took two wickets for 76 from two matches.

Another decision to be considered, Qasim said, involved the inclusion of a reserve wicket-keeper for the tour, an idea suggested by Bob Woolmer, the coach. Pakistan A team's Zulqarnain Haider is expected to be included in touring party as cover for Kamran Akmal.

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