Intikhab defends inclusion of 'experienced' Asif
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam has defended the inclusion of controversial fast bowler Mohammad Asif in the Champions Trophy squad, saying he feels it will add experience to the bowling attack. His stand follows comments from former players that taking Asif to next month's tournament in South Africa was ill-advised.
Asif is currently serving a ban imposed on him by the PCB last September after testing positive for the banned substance nandrolone. The ban expires on September 22, a day before Pakistan's first match of the tournament.
"I don't think Asif's selection is a gamble because he is in good shape and working hard to be 100% fit for the big tournament," Intikhab said. "I think Asif's presence in the team will lend experience and sharpness to the bowling attack especially on the South African pitches where pace bowlers usually have a good time. And don't forget Asif has a good record in South Africa."
Asif was outstanding during the three-Test series in South Africa in early 2007, grabbing 19 wickets at 18.47, but was less successful in the one-dayers that followed, finishing with three wickets at 46.66.
Asif said he was warming-up well at the camp and was confident of making a mark. "The emerging camp at the National Stadium Karachi and coaching staff have played a huge part in building my confidence," Asif said. "During the matches I bowled with full rhythm and the match-like situation helped me in gaining the much needed match practice."
Pakistan captain Younis Khan also welcomed the return of Asif, but warned against expecting too much from a player whose has only international exposure in nearly two years is a couple of ODIs against Bangladesh. "He (Asif) has not played for a long time and we will not be putting too much pressure on him," Younis said. "We are not going to South Africa with high expectations from him. He will require time to settle down in international cricket again."