By Saj Sadiq
Pakistan pace bowling lynchpin Umar Gul’s knee injury on the tour of South Africa earlier this year has opened the doors for others. But, it means that fans will be denied from watching one of the finest exponents of death bowling at the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Whilst Gul’s recent form has been patchy, there is no doubt that his experience would have been invaluable during the eight team even that sees Pakistan face West indies, South Africa and India in the group stages.
The 29-year old Gul, speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, explained the extent of his injury, whilst also discussing his rehabilitation programme and when he expects to bowl again. In addition Gul confirmed that he has no plans to reduce his workload in international cricket by opting out of any format at this stage of his career.
“The knee injury that I suffered was sudden. It occurred during the One-Day International (ODI) against South Africa at Centurion in March this year. It was one of those injuries that you get from time to time as a sportsman. It wasn’t an injury that had built up over the years and could not be blamed upon playing too much cricket. I had an arthroscopy in Australia and thankfully I’m already feeling the benefits of the surgery,” Gul explained.
Speaking about the rehabilitation programme and when he could start bowling again, Gul said “I had a surgery on May 9. The medics advised me that for the first three weeks it was imperative that I strengthened the knee with a specific exercise routine. I was also asked to do a lot of cycling during that time. The three weeks were up recently and I have now moved onto the second stage of the rehabilitation programme — which is enhanced strengthening and conditioning. As far as running and bowling is concerned, I was told that I can start both after six weeks of my surgery — provided the knee has strengthened and is ready for the rigours of running and bowling.”
Gul, who has represented Pakistan in 215 international games since his debut in April 2003, quashed suggestions of dropping a format to prolong his career. He said, “I have no plans to reduce the amount of cricket that I play for Pakistan and hope to continue to feature in all the three formats as long as I am selected. I have regularly played all three formats of cricket for Pakistan and I have no intentions of changing that. I’m using this break from cricket to re-assess my cricket skills and I’m hopeful that I can come back to international cricket after this injury, fitter, stronger and better.”
While Gul has been on the sidelines, the likes of Asad Ali and Wahab Riaz have impressed with the ball. But, Gul isn’t worried about his place in the eleven and believes this healthy competition is good for Pakistan cricket.
“Competition for places is always good and it is great news for Pakistan cricket that there are enough resources in the fast-bowling department. This means that nobody can take their place for granted and assume that their spot is guaranteed in the team in any format. I’m pleased that some of the boys who have taken my place in the team are performing well and healthy competition can only benefit Pakistan cricket.”
Gul confessed that he was disappointed at missing the Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom — which has been a happy hunting ground for him. He had performed admirably during Pakistan’s victory at the ICC World Twenty20 2009. However, he hopes Pakistan squad would do well in the final edition of the Champions Trophy. He also feels that the Pakistan squad is well balanced and could return home with the trophy.
“I’m the first to confess that while injuries are part and parcel of cricket, it is heartbreaking for me to miss a major tournament like the Champions Trophy. I have performed well in England and have always enjoyed playing there. However, I am hoping that the boys representing Pakistan, perform well. My prayers are with them and I wish them well. Pakistan is a strong unit particularly in the limited over formats and the squad we have at the Champions Trophy is more than capable of coming back to Pakistan with the trophy.
“Our strength lies in the all-rounders in the squad like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. However limited-overs cricket can be a lottery at times. A match can turn on one instance of good fortune or an error. Things can change very quickly. The squad has a nice blend to it and I’m hoping that the boys perform to the best of their ability and come back home as champions,” Gul concluded.
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