Drugs scandal June 4, 2008

Throwing it all away

The tragedy of the latest scandal to envelop Mohammad Asif is the potential loss of his gifts to Pakistan and cricket

Asif's has been a refreshing, old-school approach to fast bowling. More's the pity if his skills are lost forever © AFP

As quickly as Mohammad Asif has risen, so is he determined to fall. Eclipsing the bewilderment at this latest scrape, the frustration and disbelief, is the incredible sadness. Few matters in life are as deflating as the squandering, willful or otherwise, of genuine talent.

For even if this is all some terrible, disastrous misunderstanding - and the evidence supporting that theory is not great so far - the stigma for one so bright, so young, so early in his career is too glaring.

And this is yet another taint in a career that has so far been loaded with one other drug scandal, a fight with a team-mate, and an unproven slur of ball tampering. Men of all kinds have faltered early in life and career only to reform, and made great tales out of it too. If Asif is going to do it, he had better start soon because Pakistan knows - or should know - only too well what happens when fast bowlers waste their unique gifts.

Let's not pretend that cricketers have not meddled in drugs before, especially recreational ones. Asif's own countrymen have not been averse. In England a number of county cricketers have had problems big and small. One legend enjoyed the green and it didn't prevent him from having a knighthood conferred upon him. New Zealand and South Africa have also dealt with cricketers who, unlike Bill Clinton, inhaled. The former even made one of them captain, in fact their best and one of the best from the modern age.

But circumstances here are particularly disturbing, for if there is substance in the charges, then not just Asif's career but his life may be blotted. Penalties for such offences in Dubai, where he has been detained, are especially severe.

If true, no one factor can explain the stupidity of his actions. Lack of education, grooming and small-town upbringing will be trotted out, but with how much conviction? Cricket in much of the subcontinent is moving to smaller towns and villages. The Indian team has cricketers who are not particularly educated, and most of the Pakistan team is no different. Yet none of them are in the strife Asif finds himself in.

Now in danger of being overlooked and forgotten is his wonderful skill. He is a confident young man - enough for it to be often taken as arrogance and cockiness. He is also a fresh breath of air in Pakistan's pace tradition, for he has defied the modern fashion of bowling as fast as possible. His lineage can be traced to Fazal Mahmood and Sarfraz Nawaz more than the two Ws. If his bowling is anything to go by, he has an alert cricketing brain and Pakistan can ill afford to lose that. To write, think and talk of drugs, fights and bans and not Asif's line, length, bounce and seam movement is debilitating.

Asif's lineage can be traced to Fazal Mahmood and Sarfraz Nawaz more than the two Ws. If his bowling is anything to go by, he has an alert cricketing brain and Pakistan can ill afford to lose that. To write, think and talk of drugs, fights and bans and not Asif's line, length, bounce and seam movement is debilitating

There have been enough mavericks, oddballs, colourfully defiant and derailed people in the past here; Pakistan has had enough scandals, fights, factionalism and more. "In any drama that has happened in my playing time, the common denominator in it all is Pakistan," said Allan Border back in 1988. He wasn't far wrong.

But through it all Pakistan teams kept pulling off magnificent, barely believable successes on the field. They won the World Cup, they bruised West Indies, they were undefeated at home, they won abroad. Right or wrong, winning while trying to defeat themselves enhanced their worth. This team, sadly, is not that team. It doesn't look like winning much. It is suspiciously and unnaturally bland, mediocre even. Scandal, therefore, doesn't fit it well.

Tough days lie in wait for Pakistan and young men are required: men as willing as the young and earnest Umar Gul, or with the punch of Salman Butt. Pakistan needs the unflappability of Sohail Tanvir, the tirelessness of Danish Kaneria. Pakistan also needs the gifts of Asif, for no one can afford to lose them.

If he is lucky and somehow escapes punishment in Dubai despite charges being proved against him, he will come out of this with just a ban imposed on him by the board. If so, it would partly, not entirely, make up for their grand folly in helping to ensure that he got away untouched after he admitted to using steroids two years ago. What the PCB sows, it will, like the rest of the world, reap.

If he doesn't come back from this, then of all the talent that has been wasted by the self as much as by inadequate administration in this country, Asif's is among those that will be mourned the longest.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • johnny on June 6, 2008, 17:29 GMT

    It is a sad news for Pakistani cricket fans. I am sure Asif is old enough to know what he was up to..... He should be banned for atleast 5 yrs so others can learn from his wrongdoings. Pakistan was humuliated in the World Cup because it did not have its top two bowlers. Asif just came out of a ban and he is caught again. Pakistan has hundreds of young players anxiously waiting for a chance in National team. Its about time for PCB to turn its back on those who disgrace our country.

  • bad on June 6, 2008, 16:40 GMT

    M Y Kasim is right, Pakistanis should say good riddance to both Asif and Shoaib Akhtar both of them are rogue players and this is not the first time they have let the nation down. And proud2bpakistani you can be as proud as you want to be by mudslinging and pointing fingers at others. Whatever Asif and Shoaib has done, no other player in any country, not even any other Pakistani player has done this to bring disgrace to the nation. Don't believe that one person is responsible to ruin the image of a nation? Yeah, its just like one dead stinky fish can rot the whole pond or a skunk can ruin the fresh air within a radius of few miles. If one person cannot ruin the image of a country then, why are people after Musharraf? Why are people after Bush? Take a break, have a kit-kat.

  • Bobby on June 6, 2008, 15:46 GMT

    Asif has been in the limelight even in the past for many wrong reasons,reasons which any cricketer would hate for the situation they are in.I guess he is unintentionally following Shoaib Akhtar's path and i sincerely hope he doesnt end up like him,as any cricketer,or a person for that matter can take a wrong turn in his career.But as many mentioned earlier he must get what he deserves if the test results and evidences proves him guilty of misdemeanour.Law is law and everything should go by the book as this will be a heads-up for many sportspersons who indulge in such activities and go unnoticed.In my opinion,the article by Osman had crystal clear substance considering the highlighting of ramifications of this incident,though i felt he was stretching it a bit too far here and there.

  • Rob on June 6, 2008, 12:10 GMT

    Stupid kid. Everyone knows you can't take any recreational drug across whichever border. I feel he should get what he deserves - like anyone else serving time for the same offence. Just because anyone is in the limelight shouldn't be an excuse for acquittance. It may sound harsh, but it would be a fallacy of justice to let Asif walk free.

    Maybe we're again about to see the machinations of politics spreading their lies and excuses in order to advance one person on the backs of so many others jailed for some senseless reason. Because, let's keep in mind that the unlawfulness of drugs is mainly due to the people earning big money from it. There's no other cause in our world. Unfortunate us.

  • Sarosh on June 6, 2008, 11:38 GMT

    Well your at it again arent you Osman. Prior to any of the drug tests being revealed, leave it to you to take this opportunity to talk about whats wrong with the game and Pakistan cricket. I dont have any inside sources, but the article on cricinfo about Asif recording a statement also indicates that aparently his urine samples were negative. Obviously there is much more to the story, since traces of this drug can be found up to 60 days after one has used them. I wish the main stream media would wait till all the facts of a story comes out before coming up with catchy titles for articles for the sake of sparkign interest amongst the public.

  • Yaser on June 6, 2008, 11:26 GMT

    Shame on Asif, what an utter disgrace our players are fast becoming. Asif cannot claim he didnt know what was in his wallet...sorry i dont buy it.

    The PCB i hope severely punishes him like they did with Shoaib...ban him for a few yrs as hes becoming too much of a liability in my opinion.

    Pakistani cricket is nothing more than a farce now, Allan Border of Australia wasnt far wrong when he said some time back that alot of the problems in cricket are due to Pakistan.

  • Kaizad on June 6, 2008, 7:20 GMT

    Kids need education, if Asif is not aware about the severity of the drugs he was carrying, then either he is the most foolish person on earth,or he is trying to give that impression.There are too many incidents happening with Asif and am sure this one is gonna hurt him a lot and deservingly so. The sad part about this is, time and again we are seeing that people who cannot handle success do silly things to ruin their career, some realise before its too late while some don't.

  • David on June 6, 2008, 6:39 GMT

    P.S. I want do the green before I post a comment next time. I hope that this affair with Asif gets sorted out soon. He is a quality player and it will be a lose to our community. Young professionals need a psychologist and life skills training. This incident sounds very simliar to what a American Footballer or Basketball would get involved in. Is the extra cash from the IPL gonna lead our heroes into disgrace. More money, more problems.

  • David on June 6, 2008, 6:10 GMT

    I'm so sorry. I did realise my mistake later. Thanks for the excellant website, you guys do a great job.

  • Mohamed Yahya on June 5, 2008, 20:42 GMT

    I hope he is sent for a long haul, it will teach other Pakistani cricketers, if they need any, how to behave.

    I also hope the whole selection commitee, or atleast, the chairman is also sent to Dubai with a handful of Drugs so that the selection of the team is done on merit.

    I differ with Osman Samiuddin that it is a tragic loss to Pakistan Cricket. I think Pakistanis should celeberate and distribute sweets that they got rid of first Shoaib Akhtar and now Mohammed Asif after a long and humiliating period.

    It will usher a new and clean era with better young fast bowlers like Sohail Khan, Anwar Ali, Mohammed Aamer etc.

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