Play Asif from the start of CT, say former Pak captains

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Former captains Aamir Sohail and Rashid Latif have vouched for disgraced pacer Mohammad Asif's inclusion in the playing eleven in Pak CT opener.

Updated: September 18, 2009 14:49 IST
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Former captains Aamir Sohail and Rashid Latif have vouched for disgraced pacer Mohammad Asif's inclusion in the playing eleven in Pakistan's Champions Trophy opener against West Indies on September 23.

Both Sohail and Latif were of the view that Asif should be allowed to make his comeback against the Caribbeans to ease him out for the big matches against India and Australia.

"It would be wise to play him against the West Indies so that he gets a feel of international cricket and is ready for the two big matches. It would be injustice if he is asked to play his first game against India," Sohail said.

The former left-handed opener said he rated Asif as one of the best new ball bowlers he had ever seen in his career and once the selectors have included him in the 15-member squad, he should be played from the start of the tournament.

Latif, who worked on Asif's fitness during a conditioning camp in Karachi, said the game against West Indies will give the selectors a fair idea about Asif's fitness ahead of the crucial ties against ties against India and Australia.

"Asif has worked hard on his fitness and in due course of time he will get 100 percent match fit. But I think it would be better to try him out against the West Indies as it will give the tour selectors a better idea of whether he is ready for the two big games," the former wicketkeeper said.

Pakistan are clubbed along with arch-rivals India, West Indies and Australia in Group A in the Champions Trophy that begins in Centurion on September 22.

Asif is returning to the national team after serving nearly a 17-month ban due to disciplinary and doping offences. He will join the team on September 21 and his 12-month ban for testing positive during the inaugural Indian Premier League ends the next day.

Meanwhile, former chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed also backed Asif's inclusion in the playing eleven in Pakistan's tournament opener and said the selection committee had picked the best possible side for the tournament.

"He (Asif) is our best bowler and there is no use of holding him back. He is mature enough to handle the pressure of international cricket," he said.

Incidentally, the whole debate came into light after coach Intikhab Alam had said that Asif's participation in Pakistan's opening match was not guaranteed and first the pacer will have to prove his match fitness before the tour selectors.

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