Shoaib, Asif set for comeback in Champions Trophy

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, Pakistan's controversial new-ball duo, are in the squad of 30 for the Champions Trophy.

Updated: July 12, 2008 14:31 IST
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Controversial Pakistani pace duo of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif today got some reprieve after the national selectors included them in the shortlist of 35 players for the Champions Trophy, although the final decision on their participation rests on the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Sources close to the selectors said that a shortlist of 35 players had been sent to the PCB out of which 30 would be approved for the tournament.

The International Cricket Council regulations state that all the participating teams have to submit names of 30 probables two months before the start of the tournament and the final 15 squad a month before the event.

"The selectors have included Shoaib and Asif because they believe that since there is much time left before the start of the Champions Trophy, they should not be ignored for selection," one source said.

"The selectors believe that if available they should play for Pakistan and strengthen the pace attack," he added.

However, there is still uncertainty about the duo's participation in the biennial event.

Shoaib is available for selection as the Lahore High Court has suspended his 18 months ban last week, at least until the court hears his writ petition scheduled for sometime in September.

But the PCB remains skeptical about the temperamental fast bowler's present fitness and ability to last out in a big tournament.

As far as Mohammad Asif is concerned PCB's three-man fact finding committee is yet to start their investigation behind his 19-days detention in Dubai over alleged possession of a contraband substance.

Though Asif was cleared by the public prosecutor in Dubai and repatriated to Pakistan without any charges, yet the board is facing a problem because his incident allegedly involves drugs and the ICC follows a zero tolerance policy in this regard.

A member of the fact finding committee said that they are yet to get the public prosecutors report on Asif's case but as soon as they get it, they would take a decision on it.

"It is obvious that the board has to first clear him of having possessed any drugs so that he can play in the Champions Trophy."

Pakistan's next assignment is said to be a Twenty20 competition in Toronto involving West Indies, Bangladesh and Canada but a board official conceded that the tour is still not final due to some sponsorship issues.

If the event is not held as planned in Toronto, it would mean Shoaib Malik-led side's next international assignment would be either a three match ODI series at home against New Zealand in late August or the Champions Trophy.

"It is a difficult situation for the selectors as they do also realise that without Shoaib and Asif the bowling attack is a bit weak specially if matches are against top teams," he said.

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