Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain, needs a further three weeks to recover fully from the ankle injury that curtailed his tour to India. It also means that he faces a race against time to be fit for Pakistan's next assignment, an ODI series against Zimbabwe, which begins from January 26.
Malik missed the final two Tests against India recently after injuring his ankle during a post-Test warm-up and now begins an injury rehabilitation programme at the National Cricket Academy.
"Doctors have removed the plaster from Shoaib Malik's ankle today and have advised him to undergo a rehabilitation programme for the next three weeks," Ahsan Malik, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) spokesman, told The News.
Malik will be working with Sohail Saleem, the PCB's chief medical officer, and trainer Abdul Saboor. "He (Malik) is feeling much better and is confident of regaining full match fitness ahead of the series against Zimbabwe," Ahsan said.
Another vital player, Mohammad Asif, also begins his comeback from the elbow injury that has nagged him over the last year. Asif underwent surgery in Australia earlier this month to rectify the problem and is now hoping to recover in time for the home series against Australia to be held in March-April.
"Asif will work at the NCA according to plan prepared for him by David Dwyer (the Pakistan team trainer)," said Ahsan. He added that Asif will undergo physical training sessions for several weeks before he even begins to bowl. Fellow fast bowler Umar Gul has also recovered from his back problem and will start bowling in the nets at the NCA from January 1.