Shabbir Ahmed, the Pakistan fast bowler who served a 12-month ban for an illegal action, has been called up as a reinforcement for the side touring South Africa following injuries to Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, both of whom are on their way home.
Shabbir's last Test was against England at Multan, in November 2005. The ICC lifted his ban last December after receiving a detailed report from the Universiity of Western Australia, which conducted tests on the bowler's action. "Shabbir is coming," Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, said, "but I don't know his condition."
Shoaib was only a late addition to the squad, having been omitted originally on the grounds that he wasn't fit. But he was called up as cover for Gul, who is suffering from an injured ankle, and returned spectacularly after a long lay-off, helping to skittle out South Africa for 124 in their first innings at Port Elizabeth with a four-wicket haul. The 11-over burst proved too much, a hamstring strain preventing him from bowling in the second innings.
"According to an interim medical report Shoaib has torn his hamstring and would require at least 14 days to recover," Salim Altaf, the PCB's director of operations, told the Karachi-based The News.
To compound matters, TV channels also broadcast what appeared to be a heated argument between Shoaib and Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, before the start of play on the second day of the Test. There has been speculation about the nature of the argument but no official word has been forthcoming. Altaf said that Talat Ali, the team manager, will conduct an inquiry into the incident.
"I have talked with Talat on this particular incident," said Altaf. "The manager has assured the board that he would conduct an inquiry and then take action if required. The board has told the manager that it would support any decision he takes over the issue."
Shoaib's injury isn't the only headache for the management, with Gul's ankle injury not improving and Shoaib Malik yet to play any part in the series. Malik, too, is suffering from an ankle injury and is considered a doubtful starter for the third Test, starting at Newlands on January 26. He is, however, expected to be fit for the one-day series.
"Talat has told us that the management would have a meeting tonight at which it would decide about the fate of the squad's injured players," Altaf said. "Unfortunately, Gul and Malik have not responded to the treatment they have been receiving for the last several days."