'I am going through hell' - Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar is "going through hell" after failing to make it to the World Cup in the Caribbean. He was withdrawn from Pakistan's squad on fitness grounds a week ago, after failing to recover from knee and hamstring injuries.

"I can't describe it in words what it means to miss an event like the World Cup," Akhtar, the pace bowler, told AFP. "I am going through hell. I have been waiting for this event for two years and to play in a cricket-loving region like the Caribbean was my dream. Not being able to play in the World Cup is like taking all my dreams away."

Akhtar said he had played only one match in the West Indies in 2000 and was anxious to play because every paceman wanted to do well in the Caribbean, which is known as a fast bowlers' paradise. Already 31, this is also likely to be his last World Cup, a fact he appeared to confirm. "I wanted to be in the Caribbean and I wanted to help my team win but unfortunately my injury forced me to miss the big event and the chance will never come again."

His new-ball partner Mohammad Asif was also pulled out of the 15-man squad due to an elbow injury, badly hitting Pakistan's chances in the World Cup. Though injuries remain the official reasons for their withdrawal it is understood that continuing doping-related concerns clinched the issue. The pair tested positive last year for Nandrolone in internal dope tests conducted just before the Champions Trophy got underway, but their bans were eventually overturned, much to the chagrin of the global cricket community.

But Akhtar said it was not new that people doubted his injury. "I have always played to the best of my abilities but people have doubted my integrity. My injuries are always doubted as if I am feigning it and I always had to prove that I am unfit. People don't understand. Why would I not the play the game I love?"

He has plans to start training again in two weeks, once the knee injury has healed. "My next target is the Twenty20 World Cup and then we have two good home series against South Africa and Australia, so I will gear up for them."