Pakistan name WC squad

The fast bowling trio of Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Mohammad Asif have been included in Pakistan’s World Cup squad, despite doubts over availability and fitness of the three.

Medical reports pertaining to the three players were reviewed carefully by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), before the squad was revealed this afternoon. Given the uncertainty of key players’ availability for the tournament, the PCB had requested an extension on today’s deadline to name the squad. The ICC denied the appeal, but stated that the replacements may be assigned should any of the players be unable to attend the tournament due to injury.

Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif are still spotlighted by the doping issue which saw them banned briefly in late 2006. The two will undergo internal drug testing by the PCB, along with the rest of the squad, and should traces of Nandrolone still be found, they will face immediate bans. The testing will occur on February 17 and results are expected by early March.

All three of Shoaib, Asif and Gul are carrying injuries which could also hinder their progress to the World Cup. Shoaib’s concern is a knee injury which has plagued him over the past year, and he has flown to London to consult a specialist on the issue. Asif (elbow) and Gul (ankle) pose serious injuries of their own.

The only genuine surprise in the squad is the recall of legspinner Danish Kaneria. The Karachi bowler has been refined to the role of Test specialist of late, and will join the squad having not played an ODI for Pakistan since June of last year. Kaneria has only played 16 ODIs over a 6-year career.

Imran Nazir also makes his way into the squad, having been recalled for the ongoing series against South Africa. Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat miss out. Kamran Akmal will get another chance to prove his worth, as the sole specialist wicketkeeping option in the squad. Despite his recent poor form, the PCB have decided to express confidence in his place in the team.

There is no room for allrounder Azhar Mahmood, surprisingly recalled to the team for the series in South Africa. However, he may yet feature in the World Cup tournament, given the many injury worries still facing Pakistan.

Pakistan World Cup squad:
Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar Anjum

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