Shoaib Akhtar may have been cleared to play in the Indian Premier League but former players say the maverick pacer will find it tough to make an impact in the twenty20 league as months of absence from the cricket field has robbed him of match fitness.
The beleaguered pacer, whose five-year ban was suspended on Sunday for a month by the appellate tribunal of the Pakistan Cricket Board, has bowled just 18 overs and played one competitive match since mid-December last year.
He has not played since February 13 this year when he led the Federal Areas team against Punjab in the Pentangular Cup tournament in Lahore and didn't get a wicket.
His last appearance for Pakistan was the third Test in Bangalore against India in early December last year. Since then he was dropped for the one-day series at home against Zimbabwe and was subsequently banned for indiscipline when Bangladesh toured last month for five one-day games.
In this background and given his fitness record, experts believe the fast bowler could be in for a real test when eventually he does play for the Kolkata Knight Riders team on May 8.
"I am happy he has had his ban suspended and this allows him to play in the IPL. But as a former test pacer I know how difficult it is getting back into rhythm and match form if you haven't played for six months," former Test pacer Sarfraz Nawaz said.
The Pentangular cup match was the one which eventually led to the board imposing the ban on him for various counts of indiscipline as after the game he criticised the PCB for its policies on different issues.
Former Test spinner Tauseef Ahmed said for Shoaib, who relies heavily on his express speed, rhythm and match fitness are essential for success.
"There is no doubt about his quality and experience. I just hope he has done enough training and net practice to be ready for the IPL matches which are tough and the competition level is pretty high due to presence of foreign players," he said.
But he had no doubt that Shoaib's presence would be a big boost for the Kolkata side which is struggling in the league at the moment.
Fitness and discipline have been major issues for Shoaib since he played against India at home in February 2006.
Since then he has played just four Tests and a couple of one-dayers also missing the Champions Trophy, the 2007 World Cup and the Twenty20 World Cup.
Pakistan's former top batsman and captain Zaheer Abbas said he was happy for Shoaib pointing as the five year ban was harsh in itself.
"I back the suspension of the ban as it would have been unjust to maintain the ban while the fast bowler had filed an appeal before the tribunal and deprive him of a chance to play cricket and earn his livelihood," he said.