Pakistan crippled by injuries for must-win second Test

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

Kolkata : Pakistan, already battling injuries to captain Shoaib Malik and several players, are now finding it difficult to have 11 fit players for the second Test against India, starting here Friday. Pakistan, trailing 0-1, need to win to keep the three-match series alive.

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Pakistan will be without speedster Umar Gul – and possibly captain Shoaib Malik and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar – for the second Test. Batsman Misbah-ul-Haq and speedster Mohammed Sami are already battling viral infections.

These injuries and illnesses have left the team management with only three fully fit bowlers – left-arm pacer Sohail Tanveer and spinners Abdul Rahman and Danish Kaneria.

Gul, whom manager Talat Ali had declared “perfectly fit” Wednesday, broke down again with back problem at the net practice at the Eden Gardens Thursday and is being sent back home.

The Pakistan team management has sent an SOS home and all-rounder Yasir Arafat has been picked by the selectors to replace Gul, chairman of the selection committee Salahuddin Ahmed confirmed to IANS. More players could be called in as replacements if the other ailing players do not show improvement.

Akhtar was admitted to a local hospital after reaching here Tuesday and was discharged Wednesday evening. It, however, remains to be seen if he has recuperated sufficiently to play at the venue where he bowled Pakistan to victory over India in the 1999 Asian Test Championship.

Pakistan’s woes were compounded minutes after their defeat in the first Test at the Feroze Shah Kotla in Delhi when captain Malik twisted his ankle while playing football and was still limping Thursday. He is also a doubtful starter.

If Malik, already struggling with form, is ruled out of this match, the aggressive vice-captain Younis Khan will lead the team. Unlike Malik, a mild mannered person, Younis is known for his passionate and aggressive way of playing.

Meanwhile, India – sitting pretty after winning the first Test in Delhi comprehensively – look to wrap up the series with a second win. They come with positive memories of the 195-run win over Inzamam-ul Haq’s Pakistani side here in 2005. If India win, it will be their 10th victory over Pakistan.

Anil Kumble’s team has no injury worries, and if anybody is dropped from the squad that won by six wickets in Delhi it may be opener Dinesh Karthik.

His failure with the bat in the first Test has brought Yuvraj Singh into the picture again, but the final XI is likely to be known only just before the match. If Yuvraj is to be picked, it can only be at the expense of Karthik, who failed in both innings in Delhi. And then Yuvraj might have to open the innings with Wasim Jaffer.

When Yuvraj arrived at the airport here from Delhi Wednesday a fan walked up to him and said he hoped he would play the Test. Yuvraj smiled and replied: “I also hope so.”

Meanwhile, local fans will also hope for a big innings from elegant left-hander Ganguly, who has never scored a century on his home ground in the seven Tests he has played here, and it could well be the last time he will be playing here.


India: Anil Kumble (captain), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (vice-captain/wicket-keeper), Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik and Munaf Patel.

Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (captain), Younis Khan (vice-captain), Mohammad Yousuf, Salman Butt, Yasir Hameed, Faisal Iqbal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal and Sarfraz Ahmed (wicket-keepers), Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanveer, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria and Abdur Rehman.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen (South Africa) and Billy Doctrove (West Indies) Third umpire: Amiesh Saheba (India)

Fourth umpire: K.G. Laxminarayan (India)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)