Poor Pak show in Asia Cup helping Akhtar's cause

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/shaoibipl.jpg' class='caption'> As he serves a five-year ban, Shoaib Akhtar's prospects of a comeback improve each day that Pakistan fare poorly on the field.

Updated: July 04, 2008 15:28 IST
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Pakistan's consistent bad bowling performances in recent times could pave the way for an early return to international cricket of the controversial paceman Shoaib Akhtar.

Shoaib seemed down and out after being banned for five years by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on April 1 over repeated breaching of discipline, but later the punishment was reduced to 18 months and Rs. 70 million fine by an appeals' committee.

But with Pakistan missing him in their pace battery -- something that is glaring in the host team's below-par showing in the ongoing Asia Cup -- seems to be helping Shoaib's cause. Pakistan are on the brink of Asia Cup elimination and experts are convinced that their unimpressive bowling attack has dogged them in the six-nation contest.

The Rawalpindi Express has filed his appeal against the ban in the Lahore High Court. He immediately got a good response when the judge hearing his appeal told him "all of us want to see you back in action."

Now High Court Chief Justice Zahid Hussain will be hearing the appeal on Friday and according to sources close to Shoaib, there is a "big possibility" that the fiery paceman will be given a respite.

Shoaib, 31, has not played for Pakistan for the last seven months after appearing in the fourth one-dayer against India in Gwalior last November. He has been out of action either due to injury or suspension.

The Sources also said that the pacer is working on his fitness in a bid to be fully ready for international duty if his ban is overturned. Another reason for his keenness to remain in shape is the Indian Premier League (IPL) as Shoaib is eager to retain his contract with Kolkata Knight Riders next season.

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