When news broke about Mohammad Asif being detained in Dubai, the PCB was still hopeful that it was a misunderstanding and the bowler was innocent.
Asif detained at Dubai airport! Oh well, if it’s not yet another controversy maligning the “good name” of yet another Pakistani cricketer… but no, wait … it is Mohammad Asif we are talking about here. Wasn’t it he who was involved in a couple of other controversies earlier?
Oh yes, I remember now a decision by the Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) doping tribunal banning him from playing international as well as domestic cricket back in 2006. Yep, it was Mohammad Asif all right. And featuring with him in the same controversy was none other than our very own Shoaib Akhtar, who is always found in close proximity of just about any controversy involving our cricketers.
What happened then was that both Shoaib and Asif had tested positive for nandrolone, a banned steroid. The tests had been carried out by the PCB prior to the ICC Champion’s Trophy. Both bowlers were later shown some leniency and allowed to play after Shoaib pleaded that he had been unknowingly consuming the steroid through nutritional supplements, which he had obtained through friends living abroad, and Asif said he didn’t know what performance-enhancing drugs were really all about — the poor innocent souls. Like the PCB, we are a forgiving people. We forgive and forget.
But come 2007 and the beginning of another tournament — the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa — and Shoaib and Asif made headlines once again when during an argument Shoaib hit Asif with a bat. Asif was again assumed innocent and Shoaib, who then as a punishment for his bad conduct, was immediately sent back to Pakistan before the start of the tournament. We forgave and forgot again. But now I wonder what that scuffle was about anyway. Not over “nutritional supplements”, I hope.
Nutritional supplements are taken for helping one keep one’s strength and to grow healthier and stronger while fulfilling the body’s needs where normal food itself falls short. Like babies are started on cereals and mashed fruits and veggies when a few months old and when milk alone is not enough.
Not that far back in time, when “nutritional supplements sent by friends living abroad” weren’t so much in vogue, our sporty folk found their own answers to the nutrition problem. Gama Pehalwan, Bholu Pehlwan and even Akram Pehlwan had a goat or two for breakfast. Well, they had to if they wanted to keep their strength. If not goats, then a few roasted chickens would do. None of these animals were and are contraband and they served the purpose rather well.
And no one would have batted an eyelid if they saw Gama or Bholu got off the plane some 50 years ago, say at the Dubai airport, with a goat or a few roosters tagging along. It would have been a different story today though. If Mohammad Asif had been seen dragging a goat with him or a rooster under each armpit with the explanation that they served his daily nutritional intake, it would have caused a ruckus but no, no one would have detained him at the airport for it.
But alas, Gama and Bholu are long gone and it’s the 21st century. All that energy after consuming a goat or several roosters for breakfast can be supplied now through a tiny amount of contraband substance, the size of a rice particle, which you can carry in your wallet without anyone even finding out about it. That is if you remain in the transit lounge at Dubai while waiting for your connecting flight and you don’t go about wrestling people of the law there.
But our 25-year-old pacer after playing for the losing semi-finalists the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL had to go sightseeing in Dubai too while returning to Pakistan from India via Dubai and for that he had to pass through immigration. That was when all hell broke loose.
They found a small quantity of contraband substance on him, which after forensic examination turned out to be opium. If found guilty, and if not deported by the Dubai authorities, Asif who is facing charges of smuggling and possession of drugs, can go to jail for four years.
When news broke about Asif being detained in Dubai, the PCB, which managed to cover it up the incident for three days until a private TV channel broke the bhanda on June 3, was still hopeful that it was a misunderstanding and that the bowler was innocent after all.
But Asif is as masoom as he was in 2006 when he was found to have taken nandrolone. This time he says he didn’t know that he was doing drugs since he had been prescribed the stuff, or should we say ‘snuff’, by a hakeem jee. On this one wonders why someone who has the luxury of being flown to Australia just for a mere elbow X-ray needs to consult a hakeem?
Still the PCB hoped that Mohammad Asif would be part of the squad heading to Bangladesh for the week-long limited-overs tri-series between the hosts, Pakistan and India that started on June 8. But as days passed and Asif remained at the Dubai airport like Merhan Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian who has been stuck at the Charles De Gaulle Airport since 1988, PCB’s chief selector Sallahuddin Ahmed decided to find a replacement for him in the form of rookie pacer Sohail Khan who with 91 wickets in domestic matches seemed like the next best choice.
As the story develops, the World-Anti Doping Agency (WADA) has jumped into the matter as well while issuing a warning to the International Cricket Council (ICC) that it would be facing consequences if the PCB does not take action against Mohammad Asif. And so life goes on ...
The tri-series in Bangladesh goes on as per schedule with Pakistan playing without both Shoaib Akhtar — who has his own bagful of problems including fighting the five-year ban slapped on him for breeching the player’s code of conduct, not to mention the syringes controversy from which he miraculously escaped — and Mohammad Asif. Pakistan beat hosts Bangladesh by 70 runs in the opener as Dubai’s attorney-general takes his own sweet time in deciding whether to deport the player in question or to jail him.