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Pakistan camp divided over Shoaib's utility

Assured of a place in the quarterfinals, Pakistan can relax somewhat in their last league game against Australia on Saturday. Amol Karhadkar reports.

cricket Updated: Mar 17, 2011 00:16 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
Colombo

Assured of a place in the quarterfinals, Pakistan can relax somewhat in their last league game against Australia on Saturday. However, that they are serious about disrupting Australia's 35-match unbeaten streak in the World Cup and finish among top-two in Group 'A', was reflected in the intense training session on Wednesday.

While Umar Akmal, who missed out on the Zimbabwe game due to injury, is set to replace opener Ahmed Shehzad, Shoaib Akhtar, who was dropped for the last game, isn't sure of returning.

The team management, it was learnt, is a divided lot when it came to Shoaib's selection. While coach Waqar Younis feels he is past his prime, skipper Shahid Afridi believes Shoaib has it in him to revive Pakistan cricket with a strong World Cup outing. In the three matches that he has played, the veteran fast bowler, far from being 100 per cent fit, has displayed that he still has it in him to fox the best. The deliveries that disturbed Mahela Jayawardene and Brendon McCullum's woodwork could be among the top-five balls of the tournament.

Even though he was shoddy in his last spell against New Zealand, being hit for 28 runs by Ross Taylor, the team management would have rested Shoaib against Zimbabwe rather than dropping him.

"Being on the wrong side of the thirties, Shoaib has reached a stage when it's not easy for him to play at this level. We have to use him sparingly. Besides, his performance in the last match wasn't outstanding," Waqar had said after Pakistan's victory over Zimbabwe.

The former fast bowler also stressed that Wahab Riaz, who replaced Shoaib against Canada and Zimbabwe, lends variety. "He bowls at around 145 kph and adds variety to the attack, being a left-armer."

However, Afridi shrugged off the possibility of going into the Australia game sans Shoaib. "Wahab is a good bowler but we wouldn't like to fiddle around with the set combination," he said.