He has undermined a great tradition
Far from sustaining a great tradition of fast bowling in his country, he has undermined it, writes Peter Roebuck
Shoaib Akhtar's withdrawal from the World Cup is a blessing in disguise. He will not be missed. He does not belong on a cricket field anywhere, let alone representing his country in the game's most prestigious event.
Throughout Shoaib has been more interested in the glamour than the graft. His image as a charming rogue conceals an outlook that has damaged the reputation of every team he has represented. Far from sustaining a great tradition of fast bowling in his country, he has undermined it. Worse, he has taken emerging players with him. Now the game is up.
It is always worth looking at a player's history. Shoaib's failed drugs test was merely the latest episode in a career notable for its want of scruple. Over the years he has also been suspected of throwing, and worse. His devastating burst against the Australians in Colombo a few years ago was as illegal as it was theatrical. Repeatedly the speedster moved wide of the crease to unleash inswinging thunderbolts with an open chest.
Whereas Brett Lee worked hard to correct flaws detected in his action, Shoaib refused to change. Shoaib's willingness to interfere with the ball was evident in the same contest.
Shoaib's doomed attempt to take part in the forthcoming World Cup was the last straw. Everyone has been blaming the ICC for the debacle that followed the failed drug tests, especially the overturning of the bans by a court of appeal. But democracies are committed to due process. Shoaib was entitled to his day in court and those responsible were bound to accept the verdict. Clearly stronger international structures are needed. At least the Pakistan players tested for drugs, a duty not yet undertaken by some rivals. But let us not dwell upon the inefficiencies of the system. Shoaib is the culprit. At the first time of asking, high levels of nandrolone were found in his system.
Cheats must not prosper
Recreational drugs are none of sport's business but steroids must be stamped out. Cheats must not prosper. That the same performance-enhancing substance was also detected in the bloodstream of a junior colleague made matters even worse.
Shoaib was supposed to set a proper example. Last week Shoaib flew to London. Sceptics claimed he was avoiding further official examinations. He could not afford to be caught again and reputedly wanted to check his levels. A lifetime ban awaits second offenders. Presumably private tests confirmed his fears. The nandrolone had lingered.
Evidently Asif faced the same predicament. Amazing that both men should be forced to withdraw at the same time. Shoaib says his injuries had not healed. His mother may believe him. Far from capturing the imagination as a swashbuckling paceman, Shoaib swiftly deteriorated into a strutting caricature. It's high time stumps was called on an increasingly demeaning contribution. The thought of him taking part in the World Cup was offensive. Thankfully it is not going to happen.