The doping scandal involving Mohammed Asif and Shoaib Akhtar could not have come at a worse time. I understand that they have both tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, though the circumstances under which the two took that drug are still unclear. They are both coming back from injury and there are no details about when, where and how samples were taken from them.
As things stand, my first worry is the impact the scandal will have on the team as it plays its first game of the event against Sri Lanka. Asif and Akhtar would have spearheaded the attack, and it’s now going to be a race against time to send in their replacements.
I am also really surprised to hear about these tests, which have apparently been conducted by the PCB itself. In fact, I am rendered speechless by the timing of the disclosure - it's a killer as far as the Pakistanis are concerned.
I cannot understand why the results have been announced now rather than before the tournament. The team would have had time to assimilate the news and get past it, if the disclosure had been made earlier. The replacements too would have had time to get acclimatised and be ready.
As of now, the Pakistan team must be in shock, and with a game just 24 hours away, they must be wondering what to do next. They will almost certainly have to choose the team from just the 12 available players. The match against Sri Lanka will therefore be a huge test of character.
They have just emerged from one controversy, the Ovalgate, and to land in another one is unfortunate. The names of Mohammed Sami, Yasir Arafat, Shahid Nazir and Umar Gul are in contention to replace the implicated duo, but right now the team will have to do without any of them.
As far as Asif and Akhtar are concerned, I really do not know what to say. The details are still emerging and I would not like to comment on either of them until the dust settles.
Going by the precedent set by the one-year ban on Shane Warne, there is a distinct possibility that there is going to be a similar punishment in store for them. That might be career-threatening as far as Akhtar is concerned because he is at that stage of his career where a year's break is most damaging, particularly for a pace bowler.
Younis Khan will have to dig deep and tell the team to put everything behind them. It was bad enough that they were without Inzamam-ul Haq. Now their bowling too is depleted. They face a very strong and in-form Sri Lanka team, and it will take a great deal of mental strength for the team to do well.