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Malik doubtful for first ODI

Shoaib Malik's ongoing battle with a troublesome ankle means he is still not a certain starter for Pakistan's first ODI against Zimbabwe in Karachi.
Malik, Pakistan's captain, injured his ankle during a post-match football session after the Delhi Test against India in November. He subsequently sat out the remaining two Tests of the tour and though undergoing rehabilitation since then, he has still not fully recovered. He is currently taking part in a three-day training camp in Lahore as Pakistan prepare for the five-ODI series and he told reporters after the first day that he was feeling better.

"My ankle is improving. I have started running and the ankle will get better over the next few days," he said. "But if I am not 100% fit by the time the first ODI comes round, I will tell the board management."

Observers at the Pakistan camp suggest that the first ODI, on January 21, might be too soon for him. If that is the case then Pakistan will be looking for a temporary captain. Younis Khan, vice-captain in India, stood in when Malik first injured himself, but has in the past been reluctant to take on the role. Other possible options include Mohammad Yousuf and even Misbah-ul-Haq.

Pakistan will be without a number of first-choice players during the series, the selectors keen instead to test new faces, particularly in the bowling department. Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar are out of the series due to injury - though the latter did make himself available. Mohammad Asif has yet to recover fully from surgery on a long-standing elbow problem.