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Akhtar backed to face India

Gul joins growing chorus of support for veteran paceman

Akhtar: Could be recalled

Pakistan bowler Umar Gul has joined a number of former players in calling for Shoaib Akhtar to play in the World Cup semi-final against India.

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Veteran paceman Akhtar has not played in the tournament since the 110-run Group A loss to New Zealand, where he conceded 28 runs off a single over.

Pakistan have won all three matches they have played in his absence, although the 35-year-old's replacement - Wahab Riaz - has less experience on Indian pitches ahead of Wednesday's clash in Mohali.

And Gul thinks that the experience of Akhtar, who has already announced his intention to retire at the end of the tournament, could be vital during the contest.

"Shoaib Akhtar is an experienced bowler who has performed well against India," Gul said.

"If he plays, it will take some of the pressure off me. When he was not there, there was a lot of pressure on me."


Imran Khan has been leading the calls for Akhtar to be included again and another former captain - Javed Miandad - has also backed the seamer to face India.

"If Shoaib Akhtar is fit and the team management thinks that the wicket will suit the fast bowlers at Mohali then they should include him in the playing XI," Miandad told The Associated Press.

"Shoaib could definitely make some sort of an impact if the wicket suits the fast bowlers and I think he should replace Wahab Riaz."

Akhtar has taken 41 wickets at an average of 26.78 in 28 matches against India and many believe his raw speed and aggression could trouble the hosts.

Although the Pakistan squad have been quick to stress that the decision is up to team management, batsman Misbah-ul-Haq is another player who thinks Akhtar can give the side an edge.

He said: "Shoaib Akhtar is a class bowler. He has performed for Pakistan on a number of occasions including the 1999 World Cup. If he does play in coming matches, I feel it will give us a psychological advantage."

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