Pakistan find themselves in hot water again by Abdul Habib 16th October 2006 Boring is certainly one word that can never be associated with the Pakistan cricket team. However words like undisciplined, unprofessional, infighting, chaotic, unbelievable, anarchic and others would fit the team perfectly. If controversy was a multi-national corporation looking to advertise, then the Pakistani team would be a bespoke sponsorship opportunity. Controversy and the Pakistan team have always been ‘tight’ and they never tend to stray too far from each other. Which is why the last couple of years of relatively smooth sailing under the leadership of Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul Haq have been unnerving for Pakistani fans. The lack of scandal (aside from the usual Shoaib Akhtar mini-dramas) was put down to many different causes, from the new found zeal for religion to the efficiency of the laptop coach. Finally Pakistani fans had a team which was not only performing admirably but it also had a squeaky clean image to boot. For fans of any other team this would be a reason to rejoice but seasoned Pakistani fans knew their team better than that, surely there was a huge storm brewing around the corner. Anything else just wouldn’t be (Pakistani) cricket! However even the most cynical and pessimistic of Pakistani supporters have been left gobsmacked after witnessing the avalanche triggered by Darrell Hair’s malevolent decision at the Oval. What initially appeared to be a unified show of defiance slowly unravelled into a comedy of errors with sackings and all sorts of accusations flying around. Inzamam found the blame squarely laid on his shoulders (which only came to light after the hearing) and sucked up his considerable gut to accept a four match ban rather than fight the charge of bringing the game into disrepute. This was quickly followed by the sacking of Zaheer Abbass, the resignation of Sharyar Khan and the whole Younis Khan dummy spitting over the captaincy episode. For any other team that would have been more than enough Hari-kari for a decade let alone the last few months but as usual Pakistan cricket wasn’t finished and they waited till the day before their first match to reveal the ace carefully hidden up their sleeves. Now that the Pakistan team have effectively been cleared for what happened at Ovalgate, the doping scandal is arguably the biggest scandal of the lot. On the face of it, it seems quite dire but as is always the case with Pakistani cricket there seems to be more to this scandal than meets they eye. All the members of the current squad were tested before Pakistan left for India but only two came out positive with a third whose sample was cleared but deemed suspect. Now what events in the recent past link these three Pakistani cricketers? They are all Pakistani fast bowlers who missed the England test series through injury. They were all rehabilitated at the NCA and we were treated to weekly reports of their progress whilst the tour of England was under way. Therefore it’s quite possible that all 3 were on a similar course of drugs to aid their recovery and fast-track them back into International cricket. Is it really as simple as that? Maybe this scandal isn’t as serious as it first appears but then again perhaps they are guilty. However if it’s true that the Pakistan team does have a culture of taking performance enhancing drugs then why weren’t at least one of the other players caught? Surely the other players would have benefited more from performance enhancing drugs since they were the ones playing competitive cricket for the whole series? This scandal definitely raises more questions than it answers and it will be interesting to hear what is uncovered by any investigation into it. Perhaps if the PCB had its own testing facilities, they could have swept the whole matter under the carpet (the way the Australian cricket board has done in the past with the Warne and Waugh saga) but unfortunately for them they had to send the samples off to the official body for testing. Once the results came back positive it would have been impossible or at the very least unadvisable to try and copy Australia. Hopefully the PCB and the ICC will use this incident to motivate themselves to introduce more stringent and more frequent doping tests. The motto should be to ‘catch them when they’re young’ and all youth tournaments should have compulsive testing before, during and after the event. Hopefully the public humiliation meted out to Asif and Akhtar (regardless of their guilt) should prove a sufficient deterrent to any youngsters thinking about going down the doping route themselves. Whatever the future brings, we can’t escape the present and it looks like Pakistan will play both the CT and the upcoming World Cup without their two most lethal weapons. We’ve survived losing both our opening bowlers in the past and hopefully we can do it again!