Pak captain Malik backtracks on struggling Akhtar | india | Hindustan Times
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Pak captain Malik backtracks on struggling Akhtar

india Updated: Jan 23, 2009 20:32 IST

AFP
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Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik toned down criticism of Shoaib Akhtar ahead of the third and final match against Sri Lanka on Saturday, saying the struggling paceman was back from a long break.

"I never used any individual's name," Malik told a news conference on Friday, referring to comments made on Wednesday.

"I was talking about the 11 players who played the match and people did not understand me," Malik said.

"What I felt was that he lacked rhythm as he was playing after a break of 11 months or so," he said.

Malik had questioned Akhtar's commitment after Pakistan went down by 129 runs in the second one-day match in Karachi Wednesday, levelling the three-match series at 1-1.

Pakistan won the first match by eight wickets, also played in Karachi, on Tuesday. The third game will be played in Lahore Saturday.

After Wednesday's defeat Malik was asked whether Akhtar had played his last match. The Pakistan captain replied: "If you look at his performances and record and matches he has won, there is no question over his effectiveness," Malik said.

"But the question is over 100 per cent fitness. Cricket has changed and if you aren't 100 per cent fit then it is difficult.

"Everyone can see what is out there. He has the ability to bowl 10 overs but the commitment in fielding that I want wasn't there.

"Maybe he has a problem and that is why he wasn't running in the field," Malik said on Wednesday.

Although Malik refused to say whether Akhtar would be dropped for Saturday's match, it was likley that Akhtar and fellow paceman Sohail Tanvir will make way for rookie paceman Sohail Khan and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.

Akhtar managed only one wicket for 88 runs in the first two matches, while Tanvir's only wicket cost 85 runs.

Akhtar played just three Twenty20 matches for Pakistan last year. The 33-year-old missed the major part of Pakistan's cricket season due to fitness problems and a ban over discipline charges.