Pakistan's World Cup campaign suffered a body blow on Thursday with pace spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif being ruled out due to "injuries" in the backdrop of the duo having failed dope tests.
Ending days of speculation on the fate of the two fast bowlers who were in London consulting doctors on their injuries, Pakistan Cricket Board said they have failed to recover in time for the World Cup even as the squad left for cricket's showpiece event.
Chief selector Wasim Bari said that medical reports from London had shown that both the bowlers needed another two to three weeks to recover from a knee and elbow problem.
"We now don't have the time to wait on them. So we have decided to replace them with Mohammad Sami and Yasir Arafat," he said.
Bari expressed confidence that the two youngsters would do their best to fill in the huge gap created due to the ruling out of Shoaib and Asif.
However, sources in the PCB indicated that the withdrawal of the two bowlers had more to do with their having failed private dope tests in London than anything else.
"I think the Pakistan Board's decision to drop them from the squad today has been taken in light of a statement made by the International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive, Malcolm Speed that both bowlers could face dope tests as soon as they arrive in the West Indies," one well-informed source said.
He said Speed had also conveyed clearly that no replacement would be allowed for any player sent home from the World Cup for testing positive.
Shoaib and Asif tested positive for banned streroid, Nandrolone last october before the Champions Trophy in India.
Both the players were recalled from the Champions Trophy and then banned for two and one year respectively by a drugs inquiry commission of the Board.
But an appellite committee hearing their appeals against the ban exonerated them of doping offences and set aside their bans.
Speed said in his statement that the fact that Shoaib and Asif continued to play despite testing positive had caused the game a high level of embarrassement.
"Both players had apparently gone to London to clear their systems of the banned steroid but it didn't work out after which the board decided to drop them," the source said.
Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer said it was not an ideal situation for the team to lose two of their best players for such an important tournament.
"But this is something beyond our control and I can hope that the two youngters will do their best to fill in the gap. I just think we now have to put eveyrthing behind us and try to give our best in the World Cup with a united team effort. The World Cup is still not over for us," Woolmer said.
Pakistan has also lost allrounder, Abdul Razzaq for the tournament due to a freak injury and his replacement Azhar Mahmood left with the team after getting clearance from the ICC.
Meanwhile Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq and allrounder Shahid Afridi have cleared their dope tests, a PCB official said.