Big relief for Shoaib, clears dope tests

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Lahore, Jul 31 (UNI) Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has announced that the controversial seamer Shoaib Akhtar and 25 other leading cricketers have cleared dope tests.

PCB COO Shafqat Naghmi yesterday said all those cricketers tested for banned substances cleared the dope tests.

''Thankfully all the 26 players have cleared the dope tests, according to the results received by us today,'' Naghmi said.

The PCB had made dope tests mandatory ahead of September's Champions Trophy, stressing that only players clearing the tests will be considered for the country's 15-man squad for the eight-nation tournament to be played from September 12 to 28 on home soil.

With four players included in Pakistan's 30-man preliminary squad for the Champions Trophy unavailable, the Board asked the other 26 players to undergo dope tests earlier this month.

Four other players in the provisional squad including senior batsman Younis Khan missed the dope tests.

Younis was in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah at the time the tests were carried out here while three other players including all-rounder Yasir Arafat and middle-order batter Bazid Khan could not take the tests as they are currently playing professional cricket in England.

All those players will have to clear dope tests before the announcement of the 15-man Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy on August 12, said Naghmi.

The results of the dope tests which were carried out in a WADA-accredited laboratory in Malaysia must have come as a big relief for Pakistan's cricket community which was left stunned earlier this summer when fast bowler Mohammad Asif failed a dope test conducted during the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The 32-year-old pacer is working hard to get back in shape in time for the Champions Trophy. He hasn't played an international cricket since featuring in the fourth one-dayer against India in Gwalior last November.

He has to prove full match fitness to be selected in the Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy.

A former Test cricketer and Chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed told 'The News' that the selectors will judge Shoaib's fitness in a series of practice games to be played here from August 5 to 9.

Salahuddin said the Board has told the national selection committee that Shoaib can be picked for national but only after proving that he is 100 per cent fit to play top class cricket.

''A fit and in-form Shoaib can be an asset for our team,'' said Salahuddin.

He said the Board has asked the selectors to name the final 15 for the Champions Trophy by August 11, a day before the deadline set by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the submission of squads for the tournament.

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