Shoaib Akhtar, who missed the ICC World Twenty20 due to a skin infection, is eyeing a return to international cricket in the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka which starts at the end of this month.
"It was a heartbreak missing out on Pakistan's World T20 success, but that's in the past now and I want to play the one-day series against Sri Lanka," Shoaib told AFP. "I have attained full fitness and have been gaining rhythm in bowling. I hope to stage a comeback in the one-day series against Sri Lanka, if I am selected."
Shoaib said he was dropped from the Twenty20 team despite being fit, saying it was the "desire of the PCB" not to select him. He also mentioned that he had the right to challenge the PCB in court for publicly revealing the nature of his injury, but decided against it. "I had the right to move the court of law at that time but decided not to do that because of the central contract, and I did not want to create any trouble for the national cricket ahead of the mega event," he said.
Shoaib last represented Pakistan in the five-match ODI series against Australia two months ago. He had just recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of Pakistan's scheduled tour of Bangladesh in March, subsequently postponed due to security concerns. The ODI series in Sri Lanka will begin on July 30, after the conclusion of the three-match Test series which Pakistan currently trail 1-0.
Shoaib, 33, has not been a regular member of the Pakistan side of late due to disciplinary issues and injury. He was involved in a tussle with the PCB after reportedly criticising the board publicly for not awarding him a central contract. Subsequently, upon his return to international cricket, he was dropped after a poor ODI series against Sri Lanka and again under-performed against Australia, taking three wickets with an average of over 50.
The Pakistan squad for the ODI series will be announced next week, Wasim Bari, the interim chief-selector of the PCB, said. "I will tour Sri Lanka to consult captain Younis Khan and coach Intikhab Alam who will give their feedback on the players," Bari told AFP. "Akhtar's return will be based on his fitness, which we will assess, provided he is wanted by the team management."
Bari also said that Mohammad Asif, currently serving a one-year ban after testing positive for the banned substance nandrolone during last year's IPL, and Shoaib will be considered for the preliminary squad for the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa later in the year. "Asif's ban will expire on September 22, two days before the Trophy starts, so he will be considered for the squad, and Akhtar will also be considered once he proves his fitness."