As Geoff Lawson waits to learn whether he will be the next Pakistan coach, he has targeted a fit Shoaib Akhtar as being a crucial component in the country's push to be a regular international force. Lawson, the former Test bowler, has returned to Australia after being interviewed to replace Bob Woolmer and he spoke with Shoaib during his visit.
Shoaib has struggled with lengthy injuries and will come back from a knee problem for the tour of Scotland next month. "He's a vital cog to them being top of the tree," Lawson said in The Australian. "At 32, he's still got two or three very good years left in him.
"I had a good chat to him and saw him bowl a bit in a practice game. He looks pretty good. He bowled four or five overs and bowled sharply. He looks fit and by all accounts has been training hard."
Lawson was one of three people interviewed for the job this week after making the shortlist alongside Richard Done, the ICC high performance manager, and Dav Whatmore, who has guided Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He said he was impressed with the PCB's organisation and said safety issues in the country were "blown out of proportion a little bit".
Lawson, who played 46 Tests between 1980 and 1989, has a strong bowling focus and believes Shoaib's future hinges on his recovery from injury. "He's had some knee surgery," he said. "Pakistan, like everyone else in international cricket, have a pretty hectic schedule coming up. A lot will depend on how players are managed. I'm sure they would like him to be fit three-quarters of the time."