Cricket: Hussain called up for Sharjah

NASSER HUSSAIN has been called-up to join the England World Cup squad. The Essex captain, who replaces the injured Michael Atherton, will join his team-mates on 5 April, two days before England's first game against Pakistan in the Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah.

For Hussain, omitted from the original World Cup squad despite several fine performances in the recent one-day series in Australia, the late call will no doubt feel like poetic justice.

"Obviously I feel really disappointed for Athers," Hussain said. "We grew up together in cricket and his back problems are a real worry for English cricket. Other than that, I feel elated. When I was left out of the original squad I felt completely empty. Before that I thought I'd had a pretty good tour of Australia, but the disappointment of being left out changed that perception."

But if the younger Hussain would have let that initial disappointment eat away at him for the rest of the summer, the mature one decided to pour his energy into getting Essex in shape for the new season. "I'd only just got the disappointment of not making the World Cup squad out of my mind when I heard on my car radio that Athers had pulled out. Naturally all the emotions I'd only just dealt with came flooding back. It's been a nail-biting few days."

England's selectors, mindful of yesterday's deadline, had to make their decision quickly, no mean feat with Graham Gooch in Essex, Mike Gatting in the Algarve and both David Graveney and Alec Stewart in Pakistan. But the obvious candidates were few and it was always likely to be a choice between Hussain and Mark Ramprakash.

The tour manager, David Graveney, said: "He [Hussain] may not be an opener but he would be one of the first names on your list in a Test match scenario, which would be fair evidence of his technical prowess, and his fielding capabilities are also in his favour."