Pak greats decry Akhtar omission
by CricketArchive staff reporter
DateLine: 1st January 2007
Former bowling greats Sunday criticised the dropping of paceman Shoaib
Akhtar from Pakistan's 17-man team for the South Africa tour starting
next week, saying it would reduce pressure on the hosts.
Pakistani selectors said Akhtar lacked fitness for a five-day Test
despite bowling 21 overs in a four-day first class match and featuring
in a domestic Twenty20 tournament.
"There must have been some compelling reasons to keep a bowler like
Akhtar out of the team, reasons we don't know," Imran Khan told AFP.
The Pakistan team will leave on Tuesday and open the tour with a
three-day game against South Africa `A' at Kimberley from January 6,
before playing the first Test at Centurion from January 11.
Imran, who played 82 Tests for Pakistan and was among the world's top
four allrounders in the 1970s and 1980s, said it was tough to keep a
match-winner like Akhtar out.
"It is tough to keep a fully fit Akhtar out of the team. He is a match
winner. If selectors feel he is not fit, then they must watch him in a
match, and if found fit he should be sent on the first available
flight," said Imran.
The 31-year-old Akhtar has not played for Pakistan since a one-day
match against England three months ago. He was banned for two years,
and fellow paceman Mohammad Asif for one year, last month after both
tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in October. However,
a Pakistan Cricket Board appellate committee overturned the bans
earlier this month on the grounds that both did not take the banned
substances knowingly. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has
challenged the decision and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is
likely to hear WADA's appeal this week.
Imranís former new-ball partner, Sarfraz Nawaz, said Akhtar's exclusion
had eased pressure on South Africa.
"Now with Akhtar not in the team, South Africa will prepare fast
pitches, as there would be little pressure on them," said Nawaz, who
played 55 Tests for Pakistan. Nawaz, who groomed Akhtar in his early
days, said he would personally watch Akhtar play a first-class match
"I am told Akhtar is playing a first-class match this week and I will
personally watch him, and if I find him fit then I will expose all the
selectors," said Nawaz.
Former medium-pacer Aaqib Javed said questioning of Akhtar's fitness
was surprising to him.
"I watched Akhtar bowl in the Twenty20 and I saw no reason to question
his fitness, but I think selectors have different ways," said Javed,
who played 21 Tests for Pakistan. "But having said this, I expected
Akhtar to be 100 percent fit after he missed cricket due to the doping
issue. I think the selectors should have still sent him and waited for
the second and third Test, because you need to have match winners in
the squad, as it keeps pressure on the opponents."