Lahore: Free to represent his country in international cricket post his five-year ban for fixing in 2010, Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Asif said he is targeting a return to the national side in his country’s tour of England next year.
The bowler was considered his country’s premier pacer but deliberately no-balled and was involved in fixing against England in a Test match at Lord’s in 2010. Asif was later found guilty of working with his then captain Salman Butt and young bowler Mohammad Amir to fix certain parts of the match.
“The door has been opened for me and it’s down to me to perform. Realistically, though, my target for a return to international cricket is the series in England next year and that is a target I have set myself,” Asif was quoted as saying by telegraph.co.uk on Friday. The 32-year-old bowler said he is totally fit presently and has started training at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
“My fitness is fine and I weigh exactly what I did five years ago before I was banned. Mentally I am ready for a return to cricket but I have to be realistic and take things one step at a time. I’ve now started training at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore which will be a great help,” he said.
Over the past five years Asif vanished from Pakistani public life, opting to stay in Norway and play among the expat community their so as not to violate his five-year ban imposed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). “During the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time in Norway with friends, playing a lot of cricket there. I have some good friends out in Norway and they invited me there to play some club cricket and to train with them,” he said.
The bowler said he and then captain Butt shared the same cell in prison at the start. “Salman shared a cell with me for the first couple of months of our sentence before we moved cells and yes that was a help. It was a daunting time and I had no idea what to expect, so yes having a familiar face with me was probably a help. We supported each other in prison especially during the time we shared a cell,” he said.
Asif has promised to act as a counsellor for young cricketers warning the next generation not to repeat his errors. “That was a huge mistake and yes it’s a huge regret. It’s a mistake that I want to warn the next generation of cricketers about and to ensure they learn from me and to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes that I made,” he said. “I will speak with those young players face to face if the ICC and Pakistan Cricket Board want me to and lecture them about what I have faced in these last five years and warn them of the consequences,” Asif concluded.