Dope-tainted Asif's ion a Talking Point in Pak Cricket

Omar Khalid/IANS

Karachi, Aug 25: The selection of dope-tainted fast bowler Mohammad Asif in Pakistan's Champions Trophy squad has evoked mixed reaction from former players here.

Former chief selector Abdul Qadir has termed Asif's selection as a bad decision, saying that the pacer has not played any competitive cricket for more than 18 months and is unlikely to give his best in the elite eight-nation tournament to be held in South Africa from Sept 22.

Zaheer Abbas, a former Pakistan captain, believes that by picking Asif in the 15-man Champions Trophy squad, the national selectors have made a big gamble.

However, Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam has downplayed such criticism, saying that Asif is a proven match-winner and will prove his class in the tournament.

"Asif is fully fit now. He is a match-winner and we are sure that he will do well in the Champions Trophy," said Intikhab, a former Pakistan captain.

Abdul Qadir, however, does not agree. "Asif has not played any international cricket for quite a while, which is why nobody can really be sure whether he is fully match fit or not. I don't think selecting such a player for an important event like the Champions Trophy is a wise decision."

In an interview, Zaheer has expressed similar fears and said that the selectors may have just rushed Asif into the national team.

Asif, 26, last played for Pakistan in April 2008 against Bangladesh in Karachi. He tested positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone while featuring in the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) season in India last summer and was banned for one year. His doping ban ends on the same day when the Champions Trophy will get underway.

Meanwhile, Qadir has also taken a swipe at the selectors for axing experienced all-rounder Abdul Razzaq from the Pakistan squad. He said that Razzaq did well in the ICC World Twenty20 championship in England and could have been very useful in South Africa.

He also criticized the decision to take only one specialist opener -- Imran Nazir - for the Champions Trophy, and said that Pakistan should have showed faith in the experienced Salman Butt. "Salman Butt is such an experienced guy with more one-day centuries than (Pakistan captain) Younis Khan. He should have been in the team," said Qadir.


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