Akhtar fitness doubts continue

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/shoaibakhtar1_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Doubts over the fitness of Shoaib Akhtar continue after the Pakistan fast bowler made an unimpressive return to international cricket.

Updated: April 23, 2009 17:46 IST
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Doubts over the fitness of Shoaib Akhtar continue after the Pakistan fast bowler made an unimpressive return to international cricket.

Akhtar, 33, failed to take a wicket and conceded 33 runs in his six overs as legspinner Shahid Afridi's career-best 6-38 helped Pakistan dismiss Australia for 168 and go on to win the one-day international of the five-match series in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

"He looked unfit and was wayward," former test batsman Zaheer Abbas said Thursday in a television interview on broadcaster ARY OneWorld. "He was not the same Shoaib Akhtar who we all know used to bowl at express pace."

Akhtar struggled to find rhythm in his first spell of five overs and conceded 11 more runs in his return over before he was taken out of the attack.

Afridi hit five boundaries in his cameo of 24 runs as Pakistan achieved the victory target for the loss of six wickets.

It was injury-prone Akhtar's second comeback to international cricket this year after he was sidelined for the whole of 2008 due to fitness and disciplinary problems.

He passed a strenuous fitness test at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore before he was named in the 15-man squad for the series against Australia.

Akhtar played two one-day internationals _ since November 2007 _ against Sri Lanka at home in January, but was dropped after taking just one wicket for 88 runs in both matches. He failed to complete his full quota of 10 overs in either game and was later ruled out of the test series against Sri Lanka due to a knee injury.

Before leaving for the United Arab Emirates, Akhtar told reporters he wanted to bowl his full quota of 10 overs and enjoy fielding, adding there was no guarantee of a player's fitness in international cricket.

"Nobody can give a guarantee of fitness in international matches, but I have come into the side after passing a fitness test," he said.

Akhtar was selected for the three one-dayers against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi, last year, but was injured during a practice session ahead of the first match and sat out the series.

An unnamed member of the Pakistan team was reported in the local media last week as saying it was a risk to select Akhtar because there are questions over the paceman's fitness and readiness to make an impact on the Australians.

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