Pakistan in South Africa, 2006-07 January 24, 2007

Shabbir Ahmed not to go to South Africa

Shabbir was due to fly out to South Africa after the team management asked for him in the wake of the injury to Shoaib. That was before he failed to prove his fitness © AFP

Shabbir Ahmed will not be going to South Africa ahead of the third Test at Cape Town as a replacement for injured fast bowlers Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar after failing to convince Pakistan selectors of his own fitness.

A Pakistan Cricket Board official told Cricinfo that Shabbir was suffering from a knee problem, having broken down after bowling ten overs in a practice match. "He is clearly not fit to play and we don't want another player going there who is not ready to play a Test match," the official said.

According to the Karachi-based daily, The News, Shabbir was examined by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) Director Mudassar Nazar and physiotherapist Grant Compton during a match in Lahore but failed to prove his fitness.

Shabbir, 30, was due to fly out to South Africa on Tuesday after the team management asked for him in the wake of the hamstring injury to Shoaib. Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, was particularly keen that Shabbir join the squad, even telling a local TV channel that Shabbir was on his way.

Shabbir was only recently cleared to play international cricket, having served a one-year ban due to an illegal bowling action. He took 51 wickets from ten Tests in a stop-start career spread over eight years.

The decision leaves Pakistan in a quandary and they will have to pick from Shahid Nazir or Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, both of whom had poor first Tests at Centurion, as back-up to Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Sami and Danish Kaneria. The latter trio shared a particularly heavy workload in the series-leveling win at Port Elizabeth and Pakistan will be careful about overburdening them for fear of more injuries. Asif bowled nearly 90 overs in two Tests while Kaneria bowled over 130.

Questions are also likely to be asked about why Pakistan have suffered with so many injuries on the tour. Gul and Shoaib Malik were injured at the start of the series. Shoaib, having not been picked originally on the grounds that he wasn't fit, was belatedly called up, only to break down mid-Test, having bowled 11 overs.

The only changes to the squad will now be for the ODI series, beginning with a Twenty20 international on February 2. Abdul Razzaq, the allrounder who missed out on the Tests with a thigh injury, is almost certain to return, along with Abdul Rehman, the left-arm spinner who impressed against the West Indies recently.

Though a final decision is yet to be made, Wasim Bari, chief selector, told The News, that Shabbir, Shahid Afridi, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Imran Nazir and Yasir Arafat are also under consideration.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo