Is Pakistan Still Fighting With The Ghosts of Shoaib and Asif? By Khondaker Mirazur Rahman
14 March 2007
Pakistan started their World Cup campaign in a way which many cricket pundits including former Pakistani cricketers have anticipated. A dismal display with bowling and fielding, a submissive batting and lack of composure, these are the words which only can tell the one side of a sorry Pakistan side. A 54 run defeat in the World Cup opener might open the tin worm Pakistan was trying hard to hide.
It all started when the bowling mainstreams of Pakistan, Shoaib Akhter and Mohammad Asif failed the drug tests for anabolic steroid. Initially, Pakistan Cricket Board took the right decision and banned Shoaib for two years and Asif for one year. The bans were subsequently overturned in a much debatable procedure and that was the true start of Pakistanís misery. ICC and Cricket world showed itís displeasure over the decision and Pakistan started to loose its morale in the cricketing arena.
Although PCB cleared Shoaib and Asif of any wrongdoing it was clear that they were carrying a substantial amount of banned nandrolone in their blood. After ICCís decision of targeted dope test in the world cup, PCB started to realize the worst part of the dope drama.
When every other participating teams were fully concentrating on the build-up of the mega cricketing event, Pakistan was busy in covering up the drug test stories and kept everyone guessing about the inclusion of Shoaib and Asif in the squad. They apparently failed to turn up in the official drug tests but it was speculated that PCB conducted secret tests on them which they failed.
Finally, PCB decided to withdraw them from the Caribbean bound squad. The official explanation was injury but everyone could smell the original reason. It was way too late for a rather inexperienced team with histories of provincial infightings. Captain Inzamam Ul Huq tried hard to play down the damage caused but had to admit the loss of focus.
''We waited for too long for them to get fit but when the doctors realized that they will not be in a position to play in this tournament, we asked for their replacements. Now we are trying to get focused and concentrating on the matches we have to play. We know there are lots of expectations from us back home and we will try to live up to them,'' Inzamam said.
His frustrations were clear when he faced the official media conference in the Caribbean.
''Both Shoaib and Asif are match winners. But now that they are not here, we have to move on. We have played and won without Shoaib in the past while Asif has started playing for the country only one year back,'' said Inzamam.
An unhappy looking Inzamam also admitted that he would be the centre point if they fail to cope up with the expectation of the fans. "In 2003, there were a lot of senior players. This time it's only me who would face the brunt of the attack," Inzamam added.
Ramiz Raja, their ex-Captain and former CEO of Pakistan Cricket Board asked for a public apology from Shoaib and Asif for cheating with the nation.
While Ramiz was more annoyed with the players involved, other Pakistani greats slammed PCB for poor handing of the doping scandal and eventually destroying the morale of the team. After Javed Miandadís strong criticism, now Pakistanís all time legend Imran Khan showed his dismay and came hard on PCB. According to Imran, PCB has messed up the entire dope test issue concerning fast bowler Mohammad Asif and star pacer Shoaib Akhtar.
In an interview with local newspaper Imran said, "Now, the PCB clarifies a hundred times regarding the dope tests of the duo but no one would accept the speech of the PCB chairman, Dr Nasim Ashraf. We had at least three months to find the substitutions of Shoaib and Asif, as both were diagnosed positive for dope tests before the ICC Champions Trophy tournament in 2006, but the PCB chief mixed up the whole situation and turned it into a burning issue".