Dope-tainted Akhtar and Asif in Pakistan World Cup squad

Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2007, 0:32 [IST]
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LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP):Pakistan selectors included Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif in their World Cup squad despite warnings that the pace duo could still have banned substances in their systems.

The new-ball pairing tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in October last year. Akhtar was subsequently banned for two years and Asif for one year in November.

They were reinstated by an appellate committee in December on the grounds that they did not know they had taken the substance, a decision challenged by the World-Anti-Doping Agency in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"Akhtar and Asif are selected subject to clearance in dope tests while Akhtar and Umar Gul need clearance by our medical panel," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director of operations Salim Altaf told AFP.

Altaf denied that Akhtar and Asif's inclusion is a risk.

Pakistani doping expert Danish Zaheer, vice president of the Asian Federation of Sports Medicine, warned last week that Akhtar and Asif could still have banned substances in their bloodstreams.

Both Asif and Akhtar face life bans in case if they test positive again in pre-World Cup dope tests to be conducted internally on Friday or in random tests during the event in the Caribbean.

"We have secret screening tests and if anyone tests positive then we will cross the bridge when it comes. We have the option of replacement," said Altaf, himself a former paceman.

Meanwhile Akhtar is racing for full fitness after the recurrence of a knee injury and is currently in England for treatment and reassessment.

"If after assessment in England Akhtar says he is unfit we will replace him. Gul's MRI scan shows he is progressing well despite having fears of an ankle fracture," Altaf told AFP.

Pakistan have until March 2 to replace any injured player and after the deadline it will be up to the International Cricket Council (ICC) to allow any replacement.

Pakistan have also gambled on Danish Kaneria, the leg-spinner left out of the one-day series against South Africa which concludes on Wednesday.

"On the slow and low pitches of the West Indies every team has selected a spinner," said Altaf of Kaneria who despite fine Test performances has taken only 12 wickets in 16 one-dayers since his debut six years ago.

"We hope he delivers."

Inzamam-ul-Haq, who will lead the side, will be playing in his World Cup after being part of Pakistan's only World Cup triumph in Australia in 1992.

Star batsman Mohammad Yousuf, allrounders Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq and paceman Shoaib Akhtar will be playing their third World Cup.

Vice-captain Younis Khan was part of the team in the 2003 event held in South Africa but the rest of the players will be featuring in their first World Cup.

The 26-year-old Afridi will not be available for Pakistan's first two matches after he was handed a four-match ban for pushing his bat at a spectator in the South Africa series last week.

Pakistan are drawn with hosts the West Indies, Zimbabwe and debutants Ireland in group D of the preliminary league. The top two teams will advance to the second round.

The World Cup will kick off with the match between Pakistan and the West Indies in Jamaica on March 13.

The Pakistan squad will depart for the West Indies on March 1 and will play two warm-up matches, against Canada on March 5 and against South Africa on March 9, both in Trinidad.

Squad: Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Asif, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Rao Iftikhar.

Coach: Bob Woolmer

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