Pakistan all set for a return to ‘full strength’ today

Saturday, June 16, 2007

KARACHI: Pakistani cricket officials are confident that their team would return to ‘full strength’ for a mouth-watering One-day International (ODI) clash against old rivals India in Glasgow early next month.

Pace star Shoaib Akhtar is certain to make his international return in the one-dayer while former vice-captain Younis Khan is also likely to make a comeback in the side after missing last month’s three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi because of county commitments.

Pakistan are to announce today their squad for the brief tour of Scotland that would also include a one-dayer against Scotland, also in Glasgow.

“After quite some time we have almost all our top players completely fit and available for selection,”
team manager Talat Ali told ‘The News’ on Friday from Abbottabad where leading national cricketers are currently attending a training camp.

“I’m confident that we will finally have a full strength team for the tour of Scotland and that is a very positive sign for Pakistan,”
added Talat, a former Pakistan Test cricketer.

Pakistan have been plagued by injuries to some of their key players in recent times and were also dogged by a drug scandal involving key strike bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif.

The 1992 champions crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in March following a shock defeat against underdogs Ireland and one of the reasons behind the disastrous show in the Caribbean was the fact that they were without Shoaib and Asif.

The lanky Asif, a medium-pacer returned to the side for the series in Abu Dhabi, and now Shoaib’s expected return would make Pakistan’s bowling attack that also has medium pacer Umar Gul and fast bowler Mohammad Sami a formidable one.

“It is very important that all of our leading players are back in the side ahead of what is a very hectic and important season for us,”
said Talat.

Pakistan are to figure in the inaugural Twenty20 Cup in South Africa in September — an event that would serve as an appetizer to a sumptuous course of cricket over a six-month period when they would face three of the world’s top teams — South Africa, India and Australia — either at home or away.

National selectors will announce the squad for the tour of Scotland today fully aware that the player they are going to pick will go on to play for Pakistan during the hectic season.

Chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed alias Sallu will name the team after a meeting of the selection committee that also includes two more former Test cricketers Shafqat Rana and Saleem Jaffar.

They are likely to make a few changes in the side that beat Sri Lanka 2-1 in the Abu Dhabi series. Shoaib will be brought in along with Younis Khan. Young all-rounder Fawad Alam is expected to be retained in spite of a first ball duck on his debut in the Abu Dhabi series.

The Pakistan team will continue training for the next ten days in a bid to improve their fitness.
“Our emphasis remains on improving the fitness of the players,”
said Talat.
“We have the services of a team of excellent Army trainers and want to make full use of it,”
he explained.

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