Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan's record-breaking middle order lynchpin, is a definite non-starter for the first Test against South Africa at Centurion Park, due to begin from January 11, and may end up missing the entire Test series.
Yousuf was due to leave for South Africa today, joining his team-mates late after returning from performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia, but is unable to do so now as his wife is due to give birth some time between January 12 and 19.
"Yousuf's wife has undergone some complications in her pregnancy and is due to undergo surgery either on 12 or 19 January. Therefore he is unlikely to be available for the first Test," a PCB spokesman told Mag4you A board statement was later released after discussions with the batsman, confirming that he will miss the first Test and possibly the second.
"Mohammad Yousuf requested that he needs to be with his wife at the time of her surgery which is expected to take place either on the 12th or 19th of this month depending on her condition. In case the surgery takes place on 12th, the batsman will leave on 14th January to join the team in South Africa whereas he will leave on 21st January in case the surgery takes place on 19th."
If he doesn't make it for the second Test (beginning Janauary 19), it is unlikely that he will play the third either. A source close to the team told Mag4you, "If he misses those two then expecting him to come back without practice for the third is unreasonable and he may find it tough going." Yousuf also missed two ODIs in the series against the West Indies in December due to his wife's condition.
The development is a considerable setback to Pakistan's chances in South Africa, where his presence in a relatively weak batting line-up was thought to be crucial. Yousuf was Pakistan's best batsman by some distance last year, and among the best in the world. Statistically, he had no equal, scoring a record 1788 Test runs with nine hundreds in 11 Tests, another record.
It also compounds a mildly worrying start to the tour for Pakistan. Umar Gul, Pakistan's best bowler in the last six months, only bowled three overs in the warm-up game against the Rest of South Africa, before being pulled off with an ankle strain. Bob Woolmer told Mag4you though that he should be fit to play the first Test.
"He has seen a doctor who does not think it is anything more than strained ligaments. We will have a further scan to eliminate the chances of bruising to the bone but he should be fine for the first Test," said Woolmer.
The news isn't so bright for Shoaib Malik who has sustained a "grade one ankle injury" and will be out for a minimum of two weeks. Abdul Razzaq, Pakistan's all-rounder, has already been ruled out of the Test series. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, didn't bat on day two of the warm-up game, as he was suffering from a chest infection but the problem, according to Woolmer, is not a serious one.