Dhaka, February 16, 2011
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has admitted worries over mercurial Shoaib Akhtar's poor form ahead of the World Cup that has left the team's pace attack without a spearhead.
"Shoaib is not in touch at the moment," the fast bowling great said, when asked why Akhtar had not bowled in Tuesday's warm-up match against Bangladesh at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka.
Waqar hoped Akhtar will prove his mettle against England on Friday, Pakistan's last practice match before their first World Cup game against Kenya in Sri Lanka on February 23.
"If he gets it right against England in the next game, he is obviously our number one choice," said Waqar. "At the moment, we have a slight problem with the new ball, but there is still some time to go."
Waqar said he and the team's bowling coach Aaqib Javed was paying special attention to the 35-year-old Akhtar to get him match-fit.
"We played Shoaib in New Zealand where he improved in patches," said Waqar. "It is important he gets into full throttle before we get him into the side.
"We are trying to work with him. Aaqib Javed and myself, we are working with him, trying to get his rhythm right before the tournament starts."
Pakistan manager Intikhab Alam also expressed doubts over Akhtar's fitness.
"Shoaib is not 100 percent fit, but even half-fit he can lift Pakistan to glory," the Press Trust of India quoted Alam as saying.
"He needs to be utilised carefully to get the best out of him. A lot could depend on the weather, heat and humidity."
Akhtar, who last played a Test match in 2007 before being sidelined with a string of injuries, has claimed 244 one-day wickets in 160 matches at an average of 24.78.
With Akhtar out of action, Pakistan handed the new ball to seamers Abdul Razzaq and Umar Gul in the match against Bangladesh which Pakistan won by 89 runs after they had amassed 285-9.
Ahmed Shehzad and Misbah-ul Haq hit centuries, while Razzaq claimed three wickets to restrict Bangladesh for 196 in 41.4 overs.
Waqar said he was very impressed by the batting prowess of the 19-year-old Shehzad, who has played in nine one-day internationals since his debut in 2009.
"He has been playing really well, from the back end of the recent New Zealand tour," the coach said. "He scored a hundred in his last game as well. He is in superb touch.
"For a youngster to come in to such a big scene and playing such a good knock with such responsibility, it is amazing to see that. Hopefully he is going to carry on delivering."