Make or break for shoaib

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Pakistan’s tarnished bowling star Shoaib Akhtar faces a “make-or-break” test of his fitness and commitment this week ahead of an all-important home series against resurgent England.

The 30-year-old known as the Rawalpindi Express returned to Pakistan from Australia on Sunday amid a chorus of questions about his poor fitness record and attitude.

“With his age he is at the crossroads,” said former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, a supporter of Akhtar.

“I think the England series is a make-or-break for Akhtar. He is 30 so he has four years left in him but it is Akhtar who gives Pakistan the hope to win against England,” said khan, a renowned fast bowler in the 1970s and 80s.

Pakistan hopes Akhtar, who has 144 wickets in 36 Tests, proves his fitness in a practice camp this week and later in a trial match, to warrant a selection against England in the first test at Multan from November 12.

Despite bowling some of the fastest deliveries ever recorded in the game, Akhtar does not have an automatic place and faces tough competition from fit-again pace partners Mohammad Sami, Umer Gul and Shabbir Ahmed.

His regular mid-series breakdowns since 2000 have also damaged his chances. A hamstring pull ended his tour of Australia earlier this year and forced him out of away series in India and the West Indies.

It took his tally to 35 tests missed out of Pakistan’s 71 since his debut in 1997.