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Pak trying to ease pressure on Akhtar

Shoaib Akhtar's recall to the Pakistani lineup comes with the promise from teammates to ease some of the pressure that he confronts as the fastest bowler in cricket.

india Updated: May 15, 2003 15:20 IST
PTI

Shoaib Akhtar's recall to the Pakistani lineup comes with the promise from teammates to ease some of the pressure that he confronts as the fastest bowler in cricket.

"Shoaib's always been a high-profile bowler, often in the news with hyped-up expectations," said Rashid Latif, who was elevated to the national captaincy after Pakistan's disappointing World Cup campaign that ended in a first-round exit in March.

"Shoaib has often suffered due to the intense pressure- we're now trying to take the pressure off our main strike bowler." Discarded for last month's limited-over Sharjah Cup, Akhtar was recalled to national the squad for the ongoing tri-series in Sri Lanka that features New Zealand as the third country.

Before the team's departure, the 27-year-old paceman was given a public warning by Pakistan Cricket Board's Chairman, Tauqir Zia, that it was his last chance to revive his career.

Akhtar responded in resounding fashion to dismiss two top batsmen and trigger Pakistan's 79-run victory Saturday in a low-scoring series opener against Sri Lanka at Dambulla's Rangiri Stadium.

But the Pakistanis slumped to a seven-wicket defeat Sunday against New Zealand, which then lost to Sri Lanka by five wickets Tuesday to complete the first round of league games.

Latif said Pakistan was grooming a young team for the future, and Akhtar had a big role to play as its leading pace bowler.

"He's crucial to our plans, but we're not going to keep projecting him as our lone match-winner," the captain said. "With the pressure gone, Shoaib can keep a low profile and do his job of getting batsmen out," he said.

"I must say, Shoaib is lucky to have young pace bowlers around him who are eager to share the pressure."

Young pace bowlers Mohammad Sami and Umar Gul have been sharing the pace bowling role with Akhtar in the current series. Over the last four years, Akhtar was the junior of the pace trio that included former captains Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, but he was the one in the spotlight being the tearaway new-ball bowler.

"So what if he's the fastest, we can still motivate him without building overbearing expectations," Latif said.

During the World Cup, Akhtar became the first bowler to officially clock 100 miles-per-hour (160 kmph) in international cricket during Pakistan's Group A match against England at Cape Town.

Dubbed the "Rawalpindi Express," Akhtar warmed up with a 158.4 kph (98.43 mph) delivery and gradually built up speed to finish the over with 161.3 kph (100.23 mph) at Newlands.