Umar Gul won't be winning matches for Pakistan for another year © AFP

In a severe blow to Pakistan, Umar Gul, their promising swing bowler, has been ruled out of competitive cricket for a year. According to a PCB press release, Gul has been diagnosed with having three stress fractures on his spine, and the fractures alone will take six months to heal, after which rehabilitation will begin.

The diagnosis was carried out by specialists in Cape Town, where Gul spent a week. The first signs of this injury surfaced in 2000, but it wasn't correctly diagnosed then, and Gul, believing that it was just a niggle, played through the pain. The injury became worse during Pakistan's recent home series against India, and Gul had to pull out of the third Test at Rawalpindi.

Gul was the matchwinner in Pakistan's lone victory in that series, in the second Test at Lahore, in which he took 5 for 31 in the first innings. While the fast bowlers who were being hyped for their sheer pace could not deliver, Gul set up a win with his accurate swing bowling, which heralded a bright future for him. Then, the injury returned. That it has been diagnosed at all, though, is a step in the right direction.