Dubai September 17 2023: Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah is likely to miss the entire World Cup after scans revealed an injury to his right shoulder that is worse than was initially suspected.
The PCB is understood to be seeking a second opinion, but scans from tests in Dubai appear to show the injury could rule him out for the rest of year. A note from the board on Saturday evening said, "the PCB medical panel will decide on the fast bowler's return to cricket based on further assessments."
Should secondary results back up the initial ones, Naseem could be looking at a long layoff. His participation in the Test series in Australia at the turn of the year is in doubt, and he could also miss the next Pakistan Super League in 2024.
Naseem walked off in the middle of the 46th over during Pakistan's second game against India at the Asia Cup last week on the reserve day organised for that game, and was ruled out of the tournament soon after. The PCB had, ironically, pushed for that reserve day for the game against India, as a hard-won concession after the games weren't moved to Hambantota, which was expected to be drier. It was on that reserve day that Naseem sustained the injury to a muscle just below his bowling shoulder, one that ESPNcricinfo understands is not a recurrence of any previous shoulder injuries.
Naseem's absence from the World Cup, as well as the subsequent series in Australia, will come as a huge blow for Pakistan. Over the past year, Naseem has gone from a red-ball specialist to an all-format bowler for Pakistan, and on current form is the best of Pakistan's much-vaunted triumvirate of Naseem, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf.
The PCB is expected to make an official decision once it has results from his secondary scans in a few days. He was replaced at the Asia Cup by Zaman Khan, while Mohammad Hasnain, another possible replacement, is currently also injured.
Naseem has had injury issues in these early stages of his career. A back injury he sustained one year into his international career, when he was 17, kept him out of cricket for 14 months. Six weeks after his return, he was sidelined for a month with a shoulder injury he suffered on his debut in the County Championship with Gloucestershire.
In the 18 months since, his workload has increased significantly. While he was only a red-ball player at the time, Naseem has become a crucial bowler for Pakistan across all formats. He is their most potent bowler since making his ODI debut, with 32 wickets in 14 matches while averaging just under 17.
But that workload, especially with someone as young as Naseem, has built up quite steeply. Since July 2022, only eight fast bowlers have bowled more international deliveries than Naseem's 2246, none of them nearly as young as Naseem. Afridi and Haris Rauf combined have only bowled 2732 balls. In addition, Naseem has also been in demand on the T20 circuit, recently coming off the LPL. On Friday he was included in the SA20 auction shortlist, a tournament he is now almost certain to miss.