The inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar in the Asian team for the Afro-Asia Cup and the selection of just one Bangladeshi player triggered a heated debate between journalists, the selectors and their convenor in Mirpur on Friday.
The selectors — ASM Farooque (Bangladesh), Chetan Chauhan (India), Mohsin Khan (Pakistan), Lalith Kaluperuma (Sri Lanka) — announced the teams to represent Asia at a press conference. Syed Ashraful Huq, convenor of selectors and Chief Executive of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), was also present. But the inclusion of a doping offender like Shoaib in the side coupled with the selection of just one Bangladesh player (Mohammad Rafique) despite their improved performance at the World Cup left reporters fuming. The tense conference ended with a journalist asking, in open reference to Shoaib, “Will players be dope-tested at the event?”
The 14-man Asia squad for the one-dayers against Africa will be led by Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene (Rahul Dravid opted out, citing a packed calendar this year). It has five Lankans, five Indians and three Pakistanis.
“Shoaib Akhtar has not played any cricket of late. He is a doping cheat, why pick him? Why not Mashrafe Mortaza?” was one of the many pointed questions fired at the dais by Bangladeshi journalists.
The selectors insisted their intention was to pick the best Asian team overall. “When fit, Shoaib is still the fastest bowler in the world,” Mohsin Khan said.
“Before discussing him for the Asia team, I checked again and again with Pakistani selectors. They assured me that he was fit.” The tournament will be held in Bangalore and Chennai from June 5-10. Apart from the One-day Internationals, there will be a women's Twenty20 and a men's Twenty20 game between Africa and Asia.