Shoaib in line for slot in squad for Abu Dhabi ODI series

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Lahore, Oct (UNI) With the selectors meeting next month to pick the 15-man squad for the ODI series against West Indies in Abu Dhabi, controversial pacer Shoaib Akhtar remains in contention for a slot in the national team.

''All leading players including Shoaib - who is under a cloud because of suspect fitness - remain in contention for slots in the national squad,'' Chief Selector Saleem Jaffer said today.

The trouble-torn nation will be playing three matches against the Windies from November 12-16.

Yesterday, in a local game, Shoaib needed four spells to bowl nine overs in a Pentangular Cup match against Sindh at the National Stadium in Karachi.

The right-arm fast bowler who was playing for Federal Areas, scalped Sindh opener Khalid Latif and ended with figures of 1-25 at stumps.

The day also revealed Shoaib as a shadow of his previous self but Jaffer, a former Test pacer, feels that the seamer should given more time to find his rhythm.

''We are keenly observing several key batsmen and bowlers in this Pentangular Cup match,'' Jaffer told 'The News' after the match.

''Our options are open for the series in Abu Dhabi and we will take our time before naming the squad for it.'' Further speaking about Shaoib's performance, he said Shoaib was bowling well.

''Shoaib is bowling well. He is pushing and trying to do better in every over. He is just lacking on stamina,'' added Jaffer.

Jaffer said Shoaib, who is aiming to make a comeback in the Abu Dhabi series, will need more time to regain his form.

''As a fast bowler myself, I'm aware that pacers need time on their comeback. Shoaib knows that he has to take little steps on his way back in international cricket. We are willing to give him time and will only sit down for final selection (of the Pakistan squad) after the next Pentangular Cup match,'' he stated.

Jaffer further affirmed that the national selection committee will meet during the next Pentangular Cup match beginning from Friday to decide Pakistan's combination for the series against the West Indies.

''We will announce the 15-man squad by November 3, around five or six days before the team's departure for Abu Dhabi,'' he said.

The Rawalpindi Express, however, returned to the Pakistan squad for a Twenty20 event in Toronto earlier this month but he failed to impress much in the event.

''Apart from Shoaib, he and fellow selector Shoaib Mohammad have also been observing the form and fitness of pacer Rao Iftikhar Anjum, all-rounder Yasir Arafat and middle-order batsman Faisal Iqbal apart from a few others during the ongoing match.

''Each and every player who is fit and in good form is in contention for a place in the Pakistan team,'' Jaffer stated, adding that they will continue to monitor the fitness and performance of the players including (fast bowler) in the next match of this tournament.

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