ABU DHABI // It took just an hour in the nets to settle a week of hype surrounding Shoaib Akhtar's fitness. Much focus since the Pakistan team's arrival in Abu Dhabi has been in their leading bowler. The team's management stressed that the Rawalpindi Express was in prime shape - but Akhtar pulled out of yesterday's opening one-day international against West Indies after pulling up with a calf muscle injury.
At 7.30pm on Tuesday, the eve of the start of the three-match series, there were smiles all around and a chirpy Pakistan team trainer David Dwyer led the players to a routine net session, 90 minutes behind the scheduled time. Akhtar, an ever-controversial figure, happily shook hands with the coach Intikhab Alam and took potshots at the media saying: "Let's shake hands or the media will say 'Akhtar slapped someone'."
Rumours suggested Akhtar was unfit and struggling with his long run-up. He hasnot play any one-day internationals this year. But the coach brushed off all the talk, saying the management had seen him perform in domestic cricket and that they were happy with his performance and the long run-up as well. After a lively pass-the-ball-around drill, Akhtar bowled at the batsmen in his famous long run-up even in the nets.
But half an hour later he was back in the changing room, injured again. firstname.lastname@example.org