Mohali, March 28 (IANS) Pakistan continues to debate recall of the retiring fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar in its line-up for the high-voltage World Cup semi-final clash against India here Wednesday.
Experts, including Imran Khan – Pakistan’s only World Cup winning captain – are backing him to play against India. The bowler himself is also very keen to have a crack against the home team. But so far the signs are not very heartening for Akhtar.
After including him in their 15-man World Cup squad, Pakistan have used him in just three matches, overlooking him for their last four games, including the quarter-final against West Indies in Dhaka.
Akhtar, 35, completed his full quota of ten overs in just one of those three games – against Sri Lanka when he played an important role in Pakistan’s 11-run triumph over the Cup co-hosts.
But against New Zealand, he gave away 70 off nine overs, including a 28-run over that forced the team management to keep him out of the playing eleven. Pakistan lost to New Zealand by 110 runs.
Even Akhtar’s emotional announcement to retire after the ongoing World Cup failed to make the officials change their mind.
But despite repeated snubs to him, Akhtar remains one of the main talking points in the lead up to the eagerly-awaited clash.
Indian media’s obsession with Akhtar is on all-time high and the headline says it all: Whether Pakistan will recall him for the big game against India?
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi expects Akhtar to regain his fighting spirit.
“Shoaib is one of our key players and we all expect that he will bounce back,” said Afridi.
The skipper, however, was non-committal on whether Pakistan will field Akhtar against India.
“There are still two days left and we will consider all our options before picking our playing eleven for the semi-final,” Afridi said.
Akhtar, meanwhile, received a vote of confidence from fellow fast bowler Umar Gul here Monday.
“Shoaib Akhtar is our top fast bowler and if he plays, it would take a lot of pressure off me,” Gul said.