ISLAMABAD:Fast bowler Mohammad Asif could make his return to international cricket after a one-year doping ban when Pakistan takes on the West Indies in the Champions Trophy on Wednesday.
The 12-month ban ended Tuesday and the 26-year-old Asif _ once compared with Australian great Glen McGrath _ is once again eligible to play international cricket.
In terms of ability Asif is certainly an automatic selection, but it will be interesting to see whether the Pakistan team management puts him straight back into the side after a long layoff.
‘He has been training hard and is keen to make a comeback,’ Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said before the team left for South Africa.
Captain Younis Khan has not pinned all his hopes on Asif and did not want to put pressure on the paceman.
‘He is coming back after one year and it’s not an easy thing to do,’ Khan said. ‘We don’t expect him to take five or six wickets the moment he plays international cricket, it’s not fair.’
Although Asif’s ban officially ended Tuesday, the International Cricket Council allowed the Pakistan Cricket Board to include the fast bowler in the squad last month. However, he was not permitted to train with his teammates in training camps in Lahore and Karachi earlier this month.
Asif was suspended from international cricket last year after he tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone while competing for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League.
He was also detained at Dubai airport for 19 days when a small amount of opium was found in his wallet, an offense for which he was fined 1 million rupees ($12,250) by the PCB.
The paceman has a history of doping controversies.
He was first caught for doping in 2006, just before the Champions Trophy in India, along with paceman Shoaib Akhtar. Both were called back from Jaipur as Pakistan prepared for its first match against Sri Lanka A PCB inquiry committee initially banned Akhtar for two years and Asif for a year, but both escaped punishment on appeal.