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Intikhab to monitor Shoaib's fitness

Younis Khan gives Shoaib Akhtar some batting tips AFP

Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, has said he will be monitoring the fitness of injury-prone fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar during the one-dayers against Australia in the UAE.

"He is working very hard and he is motivated to perform for the team," Alam said. "But we want to make sure he comes through the series without any fitness issues.

"We will not put extra pressure on him. We will try to nurse him through the series as we have other important competitions coming up as well."

Fitness and disciplinary issues have restricted Shoaib's appearances at the international level to a couple of one-dayers and three Twenty20s over the past eighteen months. Alam, though, was confident Shoaib would prove to be a handful against Australia. "Because of the humidity levels there, I think bowlers can generate reverse swing," he said. "Shoaib can work wonders on his day."

Another player Alam pinpointed as a key person during the series was Younis Khan, who took over as captain in January after Pakistan's disastrous showing in a ODI series against Sri Lanka. "He is such a positive man, a true leader who has injected much-needed team spirit among the boys," he told Pakistan's News. "As captain I expect him to lead by example and, as our senior most batsman, he will have to be the backbone of our batting."

Pakistan are scheduled to reach Dubai on Monday and will begin a training camp from Tuesday; they also have a practice match on Wednesday. The series, which kicks off on April 22, will be Pakistan's first bit of international cricket since the Lahore attack curtailed Sri Lanka's tour last month.