Tuesday 13 February 2007 

Pakistan Gamble On Injured Trio For World Cup

Pakistan have included injured fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul in their 15-man squad for next month's World Cup in the Caribbean.

"These two players will undergo fitness tests later this month. If they are not passed fit, they will be replaced by reserves," Saleem Altaf, director of cricket operations for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), told Reuters on Tuesday.

Altaf also said the PCB would conduct doping tests this Friday.

Akhtar and fellow paceman Mohammad Asif were banned last year after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone before being cleared by a PCB tribunal.

"We can replace any player who fails a dope test," said Altaf while adding that the checks were a normal procedure before every major International Cricket Council tournament.

Akhtar (knee) and Gul (ankle) were sent home from the tour of South Africa due to injury. The last match of the one-day series will be played in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old Akhtar, Pakistan's leading bowler with 169 test and 208 one-day wickets, returned to the test arena after an 11-month absence but only bowled in the first innings of the second match at Port Elizabeth before breaking down.

He also underwent knee surgery in February 2006 in Australia and since then has played in only a couple of one-day games in England and one test.

Altaf said the fast bowler had flown to London to seek a second opinion on his knee problem as it could turn out to be career threatening.

The selectors have yet to name their reserves for the World Cup, which starts when Pakistan play hosts West Indies on March 13.

Pakistan squad: Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rao Iftikhar, Rana Naved, Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar.

© Reuters 2007

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