Mohammad Yousuf, the former Pakistan captain, has been granted a visa to enter the UK and will be considered for selection for the second Test against England which starts at Edgbaston, Birmingham, tomorrow. Uncertainty over a valid visa has conspired to delay the arrival of a player who has had no competitive cricket since two domestic Twenty20 matches for the Islamabad Leopards in March.
Yousuf has been a linchpin of Pakistan's batting for the past decade, however, averaging more than 53. "He will join us [today] and he will be under consideration for the second Test," Yawar Saeed, the Pakistan manager, said. Four months after being banned for damaging team morale, the experienced batsman was recalled by Pakistan after a humiliating 354-run defeat in the first Test. Yousuf, who turns 36 this month, has played 88 Tests and 282 one-day internationals and captained the side in New Zealand and Australia this year.
In March he was banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board for an indefinite period after an inquiry into the team's poor performances found players guilty of misconduct and indiscipline. Yousuf reacted to the ban by announcing his retirement from international cricket but recently said he was ready to play for Pakistan again. He told reporters in Lahore that he was happy to be called up for national duty once again. "It is always a big honour playing for Pakistan. But any decision on whether I can play the second Test will only be taken after I join the team," he said.
Yousuf, who scored three centuries on his last tour to England in 2006, also said that he did not mind playing under anyone's leadership. "I can play under any captain and have never felt degraded playing under anyone. I am available to play for the team if invited with respect," he said. But Yousuf's Pakistan teammates have no idea what to expect from the right-hander when he arrives. "We don't know whether he is in good form or not," Mohammad Asif, the opening bowler, said.
"I will have a look when he comes over and have a look at his condition. We are not depending on him actually - we still depend on the young side. If he arrives on time he can play, if he agrees to play. "I have heard he has been practising hard in the national cricket academy in Lahore. "He is one of the legends of the game in Pakistan, so maybe he can come in and do it." Pakistan need others, as well as Yousuf, to contribute significantly if they are to hit back in the four-match series.
"England were excellent, and the ball was swinging," Asif said of the first Test defeat. "But our batting line-up contained a few newcomers - and for them, I think they had a few pressures on. "We are still quite a good side and we will do better. We need to be mentally strong. We have not lost the series - we have just lost one game." Yousuf faces the prospect of having to bat in tough conditions within 24 hours of a long-haul flight and without even the help of an outdoor net should more bad weather intervene.
"I wouldn't like to do that," Graeme Swann, the England spinner, said. "He is a world-class player. It will be difficult for anyone to come in and face Jimmy Anderson [the England swing bowler] the way he bowled at Trent Bridge but you never know, it might be a straight up and down pitch here so it could be the perfect time to come in with a clear head." That seems unlikely however, with Swann acknowledging that Stuart Broad - who he saw take a career-best eight for 52 for Nottinghamshire on the ground two weeks ago - and Steven Finn, as well as fellow pace bowler Anderson, are likely to make life tough for the tourists again.
"That was the most I've seen Broady swing it," Swann said. "He cut back on his pace slightly and bowled superbly here for Notts. "If conditions suit, in England we are a very good bowling attack. If the rain and clouds stay around for five days I can't see why we won't be equally hard to bat against." * Agencies