Injuries, illness hit Pakistan team

Kolkata, November 29:

Fast bowler Umar Gul will return home after failing to recover from a back injury, adding to Pakistan’s fitness problems on the eve of the crucial second Test against India here on Thursday.

Pakistan, seeking to avoid their first Test series loss in India in more than two decades, were racing against time to find 11 fit players following injuries and illness in their 15-man squad. Pakistan’s last Test series defeat in India came in 1980. They trail 1-0 in the three-match series following their six-wicket loss in the opening game in New Delhi.

Paceman Shoaib Akhtar is still recovering from a chest infection, skipper Shoaib Malik from an ankle injury, and batsman Misbah-ul-Haq and fast bowler Mohammad Sami from viral infections.

“We have too many fitness problems at the moment. I felt pain while jogging. I will have one more fitness test on Friday before I decide anything,” said Malik, who was injured playing football after the first match.

Malik said Akhtar was still under treatment and it was too early to say whether he would be available for the match. Pakistan now have only three fit bowlers — spinners Danish Kaneria and Abdur Rehman, and Sohail Tanvir.

“We have no option but to win this Test, but we are struggling with fitness problems. These are difficult times for us. We just hope the players will recover in time,” said the Pakistani captain.

India captain Anil Kumble vowed to turn the heat on the tourists, saying his team would like to wrap up the series with a second successive victory. “It’s important for us to maintain the momentum we gained in the previous match and turn the screws.”

“There were a couple of areas where we could have done better in the previous game, like we should have scored more runs in the first innings, said Kumble.

When asked whether the current Pakistani side were vulnerable, Kumble said: “Probably they are missing Inzamam-ul-Haq in their middle. They still have a good team and that they had proved in the previous Test.”