"Your the key": Shoaib Malik talks to Shoaib Akhtar
[GALLO/GETTY]
Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik believes controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is the key player for the three-test series against India.

The 32 year old has not played a test match since he limped out of the second test in South Africa in January due to a knee injury.

He was included for the India tour after ending a 13-match ban for striking fellow paceman Mohammad Asif, now out injured, with a bat before the Twenty20 World Cup in September.

"If Pakistan wins, Shoaib would have played a vital role," Malik said.

"His fitness level is very good. He has played in four (one-day) matches and never gave the impression he did not bowl fast or give his everything."

Akhtar looked sharp in patches during Pakistan's 3-2 one-day series loss, taking seven wickets in four games.

"I think he was in full rhythm, he was consistently bowling at 150 kph but sometimes he bowled off shorter run-ups because I asked him to hurry up," Malik said.

The visitors suffered a blow prior to the start of the series after talented paceman Umar Gul broke down with a back injury, leaving Akhtar to share the new ball with the inconsistent Mohammad Sami, who also last played a test on the South Africa tour, and young left-armer Sohail Tanvir.

Malik said he hoped his team would have gained much from winning the inconsequential last one-dayer on Sunday.

"No team has any edge," he said.

"We lost the one-day series, but the way we played in the last match was heartening."

Source: Agencies