Gul likely to replace Vaas in Asia squad

Saturday, May 26, 2007

KARACHI: Pakistan medium pacer Umar Gul is in contention to feature in next month’s Afro-Asia Cup for Asia following Sri Lanka fast bowler Chaminda Vaas’s withdrawal from the competition to be played next month.

Gul, 24, was not even considered among the reserves for the 14-man Asia’s squad but is now likely to play in the Afro-Asia Cup because of the pull-out of the team’s two key pacers including Shoaib Akhtar.

“I personally believe that Umar Gul can be a good replacement for Vaas because
he is a good pacer and is in fine touch these days,”

said Mohsin Hassan Khan, a member of the selection committee that picked Asia’s earlier this month.

Mohsin, a former Pakistan Test opener, told ‘The News’ on Friday that the selectors will have to look for a pacer to replace Vaas because neither of the two remaining reserve players chosen for Asia’s one-day squad is a fast bowler.

“We had kept three standbys and one of them was Bangladesh’s fast bowler
Mashrafe Mortaza. But he has already replaced Shoaib Akhtar and now we will have
to look beyond the pool of players we have got for the Afro-Asia Cup to find
Vaas’s replacement,”

he explained.

Mohsin and three other selectors from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka chose Asia’s squad on May 11 in Dhaka.He said that the other two reserve players are Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi and young wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik from India.

“I believe on current form Afridi could have been a good choice but we need a
fast bowler to come in for Vaas,”

he added.

Vaas, Sri Lanka’s most successful fast bowler, withdrew from the Afro-Asia Cup just days after Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar was dropped from Asia’s squad because of suspect fitness.

The news that Vaas has opted out of the event came from Kangadaran Mathivanan, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Secretary, who said that the bowler, who is currently involved in county cricket with Middlesex, will not be able to play in the Afro-Asia Cup because of his county commitments.

Vaas joined Middlesex to play in the early part of the English season before he returns to Sri Lanka mid-June to play in the home series against Bangladesh.

Mohsin said that the exit of Shoaib and Vaas would weaken Asia’s pace attack.

“Shoaib and Vaas are among the world’s most experienced and accomplished fast
bowlers and there absence would be felt by Asia,”

he said.He said that either Gul or Indian pacer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth should replace Vaas.

“But the final decision would be made after a discussion among the selectors,”

he added.

Gul, who has taken 61 wickets from 14 Tests and has 39 ODI wickets from 30 games, is a key member of Pakistan’s pace attack.

Asia led by Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene would meet Africa in the Afro-Asia series which is due to get underway with a Twenty20 game on June 5 followed by a three-match ODI series in Bangalore on June 6 and in Chennai on June 9 and 10.

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