January 23, 2009

PCB chief optimistic about Asif’s clearance


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt, has expressed the confidence that the mercurial fast bowler Mohammad Asif will be cleared by the doping authorities and he will be playing for Pakistan soon.

“Asif will be selected for the Pakistan team as soon as he is available to us. I have gone through the latest emails sent to the PCB by WADA and ICC and personally I feel that he will not be banned for a long time,” Ijaz Butt remarked while chatting with this scribe in Karachi on January 22.

“Other cricketers have been charged and found guilty of similar offence in the past. Even Shane Warne was involved in such a case on the eve of the World Cup in 2003 and if I remember correctly he was banned for a year,” he recalled.

“I don’t think Asif will be penalized with a life ban or anything that harsh. He could be barred for playing for only a while and then he will have the opportunity to resume his career,” the PCB Chairman reckoned.

”It’s all speculation and gossip that he would be banned for life. He seems to have committed an offence but it’s not all that serious and he could get away with token punishment,” Ijaz Butt said.

Asif, hailed as one of the deadliest fast bowlers on the scene, has been in the news mostly for the wrong reasons in the recent past. He has been involved in various controversies having prevented him from playing regularly for the country.

Having made his Test debut in January 2005 during the tour of Australia, he tested positive for a banned steroid in 2006 but the ban was eventually overturned and he returned to spearhead Pakistan’s bowling attack.

He showed improvement in leaps and bounds, becoming a most valuable player for the side in a very short span of time. The recognition of his growing stature came in the shape of his appointment as Pakistan’s vice-captain.

He was laid low by an elbow injury but just when he had regained fitness he was detained at the Dubai airport last June, allegedly for possessing a recreational drug. He was released after 19 days. There was further setback for him when he tested positive for a banned drug during the IPL.

The 26-year old Asif has been able to play only 11 Test matches and 31 One-day Internationals during a career spanning four years now. It’s a pity that a man of his talent has not been able to play more.

He made such a great impact in the limited opportunities having come his way. His nagging line and length reminded many of the great Australian Glenn McGrath. He was often compared to McGrath for his accuracy and consistency.

Pakistan has desperately missed Asif’s services at a time when speedster Shoaib Akhtar has also not been able to play for the country for one reason or the other. Asif can still prove an asset for Pakistan and he has many years of cricket left in him.

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