Pakistan hopeful of swift Shoaib recovery

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The Independent Online

Pakistani cricket officials say they are hopeful that Shoaib Ahktar, widely regarded as the fastest bowler in world cricket, will be ready for the second Test match against the West Indies on Friday.

Shaoib is still recovering from a groin injury suffered during the Coca-Cola Challenge Trophy six weeks ago in Sharjah. He joined the West Indies tour late and has played in only one match on tour, bowling seven overs and taking two wickets.

"We are working with Shoaib, hoping he will be fit enough for the second Test," team manager Khawaja Mohammed Nazir said Sunday, contradicting Pakistani press reports that Shaoib would quit the tour. "He had a very good workout this morning and we are encouraged. But we have to wait and see. There are still two Tests remaining."

The first Test against the West Indies ended in a rain-ruined draw last week in Gue Walcott, head of the International Cricket Council, said Sunday the ICC had not asked for Shaoib's withdrawal from the tour because of continuing doubts over the legality of his bowling technique, as reported in London newspapers.

"As far as I'm concerned that is not the case," Walcott, the former West Indies star batsman of the 1950s, said. "The ICC has cleared Shaoib as free to play and he has played. I have heard nothing to the contrary from the ICC."

Shoaib, 24, is known to fans as the "Rawalpindi Express" for his pace and the city of his birth. He was suspended by a special ICC committee in late December after critical reports on his technique from umpires Darrell Hair and Peter Willey, as well as match referee John Reid during a Test against Australia.

The law states that the ball must be bowled with a straight elbow, not thrown.

The suspension was later overturned by ICC chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya, and Shoaib has played both Tests and one-day internationals since.

Shoaib signed a contract last year to play for Nottinghamshire in the English county championship for the 2000 season and will join the club upon leaving the Caribbean. Nottinghamshire gave him leave of absence for the West Indies tour so that he could miss the first month of the English season.