Pakistan received some long overdue good news in the form of fast bowler Umar Gul's encouraging progress towards full fitness in time for the World Cup.
Gul has been out of action since the start of the South African tour in December with an injured fibula, but he says he has been bowling at full pelt again for the last few days. "I have been feeling good over the last few days at the National Cricket Academy (NCA)," Gul told telepk.com
"I've been working with the trainer Murray Stevenson and Dr Sohail Saleem [PCB doctor] and am now bowling from my full run-up and at my regular pace. I am confident that come the World Cup, I will have recovered fully," he added.
How much he has recovered is only expected to become clearer over the weekend as Gul will undergo another MRI scan to see how the injury, thought to be a slight fracture at one point, is healing. Pakistan are expected to carry out full medical tests to assess the fitness of all their squad members during the training camp for the World Cup, which began at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore this morning.
Fully fit he may very well be by the time the tournament begins, but whether Gul will be able to shrug off the rustiness from two months' inaction remains to be seen. Gul feels there is ample preparation time between now and Pakistan's first game, against West Indies on March 13, for rustiness to not be a concern.
"It shouldn't be a problem. I have the training camp in which I will be bowling as I would in match situations extensively," he said. "We also have a couple of warm-up games before the opener where I can bowl in match conditions. It is my first time in the Caribbean so the matches will provide me an opportunity to get used to the conditions as well."
Dr Saleem added that Gul had been bowling six to eight overs a day regularly under his supervision and had now been handed over to Bob Woolmer as the training camp got underway. "There will be another scan on him but hopefully we think he will be fully fit for the World Cup."
Until he pulled up with the injury - sustained, according to the bowler, in South Africa and not in the domestic Twenty20 beforehand as has been variously asserted - Gul had been Pakistan's best fast bowler over the second half of last year.
After a year out with a serious back injury, he returned last year, fitter, with a modified action and a little extra zip. "That year out was the hardest work I have done in terms of training and working out, to keep myself fit while I wasn't bowling. My action changed a little and the pace has gone up a little," Gul explained.
It resulted in 34 Test wickets in his last seven matches and a string of impressive performances with the white ball, especially during the Champions Trophy in India. With Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar ongoing doubts for various reasons, a fully fit Gul is likely to be crucial to Pakistan's chances.