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Shoaib heads back to NZ 'sensible' and 'mature'

Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar will bring none of the baggage of his previous controversial visit to New Zealand to Pakistan's first Test on Friday.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2003 10:48 IST

Fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar will bring none of the baggage of his previous controversial visit to New Zealand to Pakistan's first cricket Test against the Kiwis at Hamilton on Friday.

In 2001, Shoaib walked out before the first Test of a squared series, ostensibly with an injury but also pursued by questions over the legitimacy of his bowling action.

The departure preceded one of his periodic retreats from international cricket during which he undertook remedial work on his technique.

While Shoaib claimed no ill feeling over his treatment during his last tour to New Zealand, he seemed a player with a point to prove Thursday.

"I had a rough time last time because of an injury and allegations against me," Shoaib said. "It took me about one year to get over it. What's done is done. The circumstances are different and I'm pretty happy to be back."

Shoaib said he now concentrated on the accuracy and effectiveness of his bowling and not on raw pace.

"I'm a more mature bowler," he said. "I concentrate more on line and length now and I'm very sensible."

New Zealand's new coach John Bracewell, trying to play down the reputation of one of the world's fastest bowlers, says Shoaib is only one member of a broad-based and inexperienced Pakistan attack.

Shoaib was happy to accept that judgment yet he is by far the most experienced of the Pakistan bowlers with 107 wickets from his 28 Tests.

Of his bowling partners, Mohammad Sami has 44 wickets from 10 Tests, Shabbir Ahmed 23 wickets from four Tests and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria 62 wickets from 14 Tests.

"I think they've got a pretty good bowling unit," Bracewell said.

"They've got two bowlers who keep you back on your crease and that works nicely with the guys bowling around them. To be honest they've got the potential to be a massive bowling unit."

The New Zealand 12 includes seven members of the team which was dismissed for 73 by Pakistan in Lahore last year, a match in which Shoaib took 6-11.

New Zealand opener Mark Richardson had a short look at the Pakistan attack during the tourists' warmup match against Auckland this week and was impressed.

"I can't see us dominating their bowling attack, but as long as we can just get enough runs to keep our noses in front we can win it," Richardson said.

Shoaib, who took only one wicket in the tour opener, is likely to be more effective in Hamilton on a pitch which, though dried by recent fine weather, will still be moist and responsive.

New Zealand expressed confidence in their ability to contain the Pakistan batsmen.

"I give ourselves a very, very good chance of bowling them out cheaply with our bowling attack," Richardson said.

New Zealand dropped spinner Paul Wiseman from their 13-man squad and will enter the match with an attack comprising Daryl Tuffey, youngster Ian Butler and Chris Cairns, playing his first Test in 21 months.

They also have spinner Daniel Vettori and medium pacer Jacob Oram.

Pakistan are likely to field a settled batting lineup, stiffened by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, with either Shoaib Malik or Asim Kamal at no. 6.

Pakistan (from): Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Yousuf Youhana, Salim Elahi, Asim Kamal, Younis Khan, Moin Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed, Umar Gul.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Mark Richardson, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Ian Butler. Umpires: David Orchard, South Africa, Steve Davis, Australia.

First Published: Dec 18, 2003 10:48 IST