Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, believes Shoaib Akhtar still has a few years of international cricket left in him and has backed him to play a crucial role in the home series against India in January. Shoaib returned to the Pakistan squad for the series against West Indies in Abu Dhabi but missed all three ODIs due to a calf strain.
"He [Shoaib] can play a very important role against India and we will be relying on him to deliver the goods with experience and pace," Alam told PTI. "I don't think he is finished. If nursed properly and if he takes care of himself, Shoaib can do more for Pakistan than he has done in recent times."
Shoaib's appearances for Pakistan have been sporadic of late due to injury and disciplinary issues but Alam said he was working his way back through a rigorous rehabilitation program under the supervision of David Dwyer, the Pakistan trainer. "He is working very hard and doing what he has been asked to do to lose weight, become fitter and sharper,"Alam said. "He was fit for the final match [in Abu Dhabi] but we decided to not risk him on the advice of the trainer."
Looking ahead to Pakistan's first Test series in more than a year, Alam said all the players had been given individual programs to get themselves fit. He acknowledged India's splendid success in recent months - which included a 2-0 series win at home against Australia - and said their bowlers had mastered the art of using the SG ball effectively in domestic and first-class cricket.
"India have done really well in recent months and they were the better side against Australia. I think one of the reasons for their success is the balls they use in domestic cricket and against touring sides," Alam said. "The Indian players are well-versed with the SG cricket balls and know how to use them well. Compared to the Kookaburra, the SG has a more prominent seam that does not die down after a few overs and is a big help for the spinners and fast bowlers alike. It allows them to take a strong grip and use it effectively."
India's tour of Pakistan, which runs from January 4 to February 19, includes three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 international.