Arafat replaces Gul as Pakistan battle injuries

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

Kolkata : Pace bowing all-rounder Yasir Arafat is coming to replace injured speedster Umar Gul as the injury-hit Pakistan team struggles to raise 11 fit men for the second Test against India, starting here Friday, the chief selector said Thursday.

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While confirming that the Arafat will replace Gul, whose back problem recurred here, Salahuddin Ahmed, chairman of the Pakistani selection committee, said captain Shoaib Malik and speedster Mohammed Sami were also under close watch.

“Yasir Arafat is coming to replace Gul and he could reach Kolkata just in time for the second Test,” Ahmed, who is now in India, told IANS over phone.

“As Arafat could not have obtained visa in such a short time he is reaching India via Dubai. He should be in Kolkata by 8 a.m. Friday,” Ahmed, a former Test player, said.

Arafat, 25, is yet to play a Test, but he has featured in seven One-Day Internationals and four Twenty20 International matches. Pakistan, trailing 0-1 in the three-match series, must win the second Test to stay afloat.

Injuries/illness to Gul, Akhtar and Sami has left only three fully fit bowlers – left-arm pacer Sohail Tanveer, and spinners Abdul Rahman and Danish Kaneria.Ahmed said that Sami and Malik would not be sent back immediately.

“No other player is being sent back home except Gul,” he said.

Akhtar and Sami did not even turn up for the practice session this morning.Gul, whom manager Talat Ali had declared “perfectly fit” Wednesday, again complained of back problem again at a net practice session at the Eden Gardens here Thursday. A decision to send him back to Pakistan was taken after practice session.

Sami has a viral infection and Malik injured his ankle while playing football at the Kotla after Pakistan’s six-wicket defeat in Delhi Monday.

Malik looked helpless at the pre-match press conference.

“Umar bowled flat out yesterday, but he felt pain again today and is being sent [home] for treatment,” he said.

“We don’t have many options. We have to win this Test,” Malik said.

“It’s a crucial Test, one we have to win,” he said, underscoring his and his team’s predicament.

About his sore ankle, he said: “I did some jogging and walked a little. But I felt quite a lot of pain. I’ll have another fitness test tomorrow morning and let’s see what happens.”

On the pitch, he said: “It looks a good batting track, but later on it should take some turn.”