KARACHI: Pakistan team manager Intikhab Alam has rubbished reports that Shoaib Akhtar was not ready for the World Cup semifinal against India because of fitness problems. “Shoaib has been fully involved in match practice, and is available for selection. He’s very much part of the squad and there is no question about his motivation or enthusiasm to play in this important game. Shoaib is ready for the semifinal,” Intikhab was quoted as saying on Tuesday. Intikhab, who coached Pakistan to victory in the 1992 World Cup in Australia and the Twenty20 World Cup in England in 2009, dismissed reports that Shoaib’s focus was no longer on cricket after announcing his retirement from international cricket a few days back.
“The rumours about Shoaib no longer focussing on cricket after announcing his retirement are false. Shoaib has been training hard with his teammates throughout the tournament and it’s been no different since he announced his retirement. He has taken part fully in training and not missed any sessions,” he added. Shoaib has been nursing a knee injury and while he is available for selection for today’s match, Intikhab did admit that the bowler had not been 100 percent fit at any point during the World Cup. “I wouldn’t say Shoaib is 100 percent match fit. He’s been carrying a knee problem and has been in pain during the tournament but, to his credit, has still managed to play some matches,” he said.
Skipper Shahid Afridi had said that he wanted the fast bowler to play but not to bowl just four or five overs but his full quota of overs, and his fitness and form would be tested in the final training session ahead of the semifinal. Interestingly former captain, Imran Khan told ‘Geo News’ channel that if he was captain he would play Shoaib even if he was not capable of bowling more than five or six overs. “I don’t know the ground realities in the team but if he is available and even bowl five to six overs in the semifinal, I would play him as he is a wicket-taking bowler and such bowlers win you the big matches,” Imran had said.