Kolkata, Nov 29 (UNI) Its really a do-or-die situation for Shoaib Malik and Pakistan, as their chance of going even in the series looked slimmer than ever before with pacer Umar Gul packing off for home and the skipper himself uncertain to play tomorrow.
Talking to mediapersons after the second day's practice today, where Gul was seen standing somewhat stiff even as Billy Doctrove and Geoff Lawson plied the tricks of the trade to other bowlers, Malik said, ''Umar bowled at full strength yesterday. But he felt pain again today and is being sent for treatment. It's a crucial Test that we have to win and we've talked to the selectors and given them a few options. It's up to them now.'' The team management has send an SOS to the selectors asking for Gul's replacement.
''What can we do now? It's a do-or-die situation for us and we need to win this Test to stay alive in the series. We are struggling with our form and the team has been down with injuries, but there is no option to winning,'' he added.
With Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami desperately trying to recover from chest infections, and Shoaib Malik, the captain, nursing a sore ankle, Pakistan received the unkindest cut this morning with Umar Gul, who had missed the Delhi Test with a back strain, breaking down while bowling at the nets after which the team management decided to send him back.
Rao Iftikhar Anjum, who played in the one-day series, heads the the wish list, though Mohammad Irshad and Abdul Rauf could also be asked to replace Gul.
''Misbah-ul Haq is recovering from flu which had troubled him during the first Test. Misbah is likely to be fit for the second Test,'' the skipper added.
Neither Shoaib nor Sami was at the ground for the morning practice session, which left Malik circumspect. ''They both have chest infection and are under treatment. They have recovered a little, but we'll wait till tomorrow morning before we decide.'' Speaking about his own condition, he said, ''I did some jogging and walked a little. But I felt quite a lot of pain. I'll have another fitness test tomorrow morning and see what happens.'' Malik shrugged off criticism of him being a soft captain.
''We need to take all criticisms positively. It's a tough time, but we're professionals, and we've all played for the country with small niggles before. When the team is down we need to encourage the players and not be extra strict with them.'' He also admitted that there was no scope of winning the Test without four specialist bowlers. ''We don't have many options.
The replacements may come this evening,'' he said.
There were words of support too for Danish Kaneria, ''Like every spinner, Danish needs time and long spells. We didn't bat well, and he struggled because of that.'' But the state the Pakistan team is in, it seems the proud record of not losing a series on Indian soil since the 1979-80 was all but gone.