Shoaib Akhtar is expected to miss the rest of the series against South Africa after suffering a hamstring injury in the second Test at Port Elizabeth, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced. It is likely that he will be sent back to Pakistan.
Shoaib was only a late addition to the squad, having been omitted originally on the grounds that he wasn't fit. But he was called up as cover for Umar Gul, suffering from an injured ankle, and after a long lay-off, returned spectacularly, skittling out South Africa for 124 in their first innings of the second Test at Port Elizabeth with a four-wicket haul. The 11-over burst proved too much, a hamstring strain preventing him from bowling in the second innings.
"According to an interim medical report Shoaib has torn his hamstring and would require at least 14 days to recover," Salim Altaf, the PCB's director of operations, told the Karachi-based The News. "He would not be taking any more part in the current series and may be sent back home by the team management."
To compound matters, TV channels also broadcast what appeared to be a heated argument between Shoaib and Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, before the start of play on the second day of the Test. There has been speculation about the nature of the argument but no official word has been forthcoming. Altaf said that Talat Ali, the team manager, will conduct an inquiry into the incident.
"I have talked with Talat on this particular incident," said Altaf. "The manager has assured the board that he would conduct an inquiry and then take action if required. The board has told the manager that it would support any decision he takes over the issue."
Shoaib's injury isn't the only headache for the management: a decision is expected on what to do with Gul and Shoaib Malik, both of whom have yet to play any part in the Test series. Both are suffering from ankle injuries and are considered doubtful starters for the third Test, due to begin at Cape Town from January 26.
"Talat has told us that the management is going to have a meeting tonight in which it would decide about the fate of the squad's injured players," Altaf said. "Unfortunately, Gul and Malik have not responded to the treatment they have been receiving for the last several days and remain doubtful for the third Test."
Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, told a local TV channel after yesterday's play that the management will discuss names of replacements to be called up after the conclusion of the second Test. He said Shahid Afridi, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Shabbir Ahmed and Adul Rahman were all being considered.