Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram believes fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's international career is virtually over. Akram said the warning bells had been sounded with Shoaib's omission from Pakistan's list of probables for the forthcoming Champions Trophy, to be held in South Africa.
"I don't think he has got a chance, unless and until some miracles happen," Akram said. "Even though it depends on the captain and selectors, I think Shoaib has fallen out with the selectors and the board itself. The board still supported him and he went to Abu Dhabi and played two of the five games [against Australia] before getting injured again. We all saw that."
Akram also said the emergence of young fast bowlers like Mohammad Aamer had made Shoaib's comeback tougher. "I think Pakistan's bowling unit is doing well and they have to look ahead and think about the future," he said. "They have to back the youngsters who will do the job for them, even if you look at the 2011 World Cup. Also in this year's Champions Trophy and the next Twenty20 World Cup, the team would have to rely on the youngsters. I don't know where you can place Shoaib Akhtar in the current picture of Pakistan cricket."
Akram predicted a difficult future for Mohammad Asif as well. The 26-year-old fast bowler, however, made the cut for the probables for the Champions Trophy, following a tumultuous two-and-a-half years in which he failed dope tests and was embroiled in a detention case in Dubai.
"My advice to Asif would be - learn from your mistakes. I sincerely hope he learns from the 300 mistakes that he has made in the last two years," said Akram. "He's young, talented and one of the best Pakistani bowlers but it will take him some time to return because Aamer is now bowling really well."
He pointed out that international returns were not easy and cited the cases of Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir. "Even Sohail Tanvir was struggling in Twenty20," Akram said. "Umar Gul is phenomenal but I don't think he bowled well enough in the Test matches [in Sri Lanka]. My advice to Gul is: Twenty20 and ODI are fine but if you are to be recognised as a good bowler you have to do well in Test cricket too."