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Cleared Shoaib and Asif not included in one-day squad

Written by: Staff
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RAWALPINDI, Dec 5 (Reuters) Fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have not been included in Pakistan's cricket squad for the second one-dayer against the West Indies, despite being cleared of doping offences today.

Chief selector Wasim Bari told Reuters that the same squad which had been named for the first game, abandoned due to torrential rain, had been retained.

''As far as Shoaib and Asif are concerned, we don't know the details as yet from the cricket board about the lifting of their bans,'' he said.

''I will have to talk to the other selectors before we decide on when to consider them for selection.'' Akhtar had been banned for two years and Asif for one year by a drugs inquiry tribunal of the Pakistan cricket Board in early November.

Their bans were lifted today by an appeals tribunal of the board on the grounds they had not taken the banned substance intentionally and were not aware that supplements they were using could be contaminated.

Both said they were keen to resume their international careers as soon as possible.

SHOAIB OVERJOYED ''I am overjoyed by what happened today. It is hard to describe how relieved I really am. The ban was like a life sentence for me and unbearable. I was innocent,'' Shoaib said.

''I am grateful to everyone who has supported me and Asif through this terrible ordeal. I am also happy the cricket board gave me a chance to fight the ban,'' he added.

Shoaib said he had spent sleepless nights after being accused of the doping offence.

''But now it is over and I want to get back on track again and play for Pakistan because I missed playing for my country which is a great honour.'' Cricket experts had feared that if his appeal had not been upheld, it would prove to be the end of an enigmatic career for Shoaib.

Asif said he had always remained confident of success.

''It was a nightmare for me but I was confident because I never did anything wrong. I still don't know how all thisappened. I didn't realise the seriousness of the situation until we were banned,'' he said.

The 23-year-old is recognised as one of Pakistan's most promising pace bowlers having taken 30 wickets in six tests after a wicketless debut against Australia in Sydney in January 2005.

Asif said his lawyer, Aftab Gul, had always been sure his ban would be overturned by the appeals tribunal. ''He kept on telling me that there were flaws in the case and we would be victorious. He gave me lot of hope. So did my mother and family,'' Asif said.

Bari said that though captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was included in the squad for the second match he was still not clear whether he would be able to play.

Inzamam was banned for four matches by the International Cricket Council in September and missed three of them in the Champions Trophy in India.

What would have been the fourth game of his ban was abandoned today due to rain.

Pakistan squad: Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Yasir Hameed, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar, Rana Naved, Danish Kaneria, Abdul Rehman.

REUTERS PDS KN1620

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