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Akhtar is our trump card: skipper

Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik denies rumours about Akhtar being unfit and out of rhythm, reports Anam Arsalan.

cricket Updated: Nov 22, 2007 14:03 IST
Anam Arsalan
Anam Arsalan
Hindustan Times

It didn’t last more than a few minutes. For that’s how Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik wanted the pre-match press briefing to be — brief and to the point.

And for a major part, the Q&A session focussed on the team composition - the openers, the bowling strengths and the likely wicketkeeper.

After the IndianOil Cup was unveiled and the shutterbugs got a chance to click their best shot, Malik got straight to business.

“No team has an edge here,” he said, replying to a query on the Kotla’s spin-friendly reputation.

“No doubt India boasts of spinners like Kumble, Kartik and Harbhajan, but if you look at the statistics, you will find that pacers have excelled on such tracks too,” said Malik, adding, “Our main strength lies in fast bowling but (leg-spinner) Danish Kaneria will have a vital role to play.”

However, Shoaib Akhtar continues to be Pakistan’s “trump card”. “All concerns about his being unfit and out of rhythm are baseless. He can still bowl at 150-plus (kph),” said Malik.

He also brushed aside the notion that the pacer was using a shorter run-up during the one-dayers as he was injured. “I asked him to do that to save time,” said the skipper.

Incidentally, Akhtar, has not played a Test since a knee-injury forced him out of the second match in South Africa in January. On the inclusion of Mohammad Sami, Malik said, “He has the experience of bowling on such tracks.” Sami was part of the team that toured India in 2005.

Asked if the absence of Sreesanth and R.P. Singh would help Pakistan, he said, “Munaf has been called in and then there is Zaheer, so India have a good pace attack too. But yes the two (Sreesanth and R.P) could have made a difference.”

Meanwhile, Malik said that Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed would almost certainly open: “We have two openers and will make use of them.”

He also indicated that Kamran Akmal, under fire behind and in front of the stumps, would be persisted with. “A decision regarding that will be taken at the team meeting tonight but we will take into account the player’s experience in that area.”

First Published: Nov 22, 2007 01:04 IST