My first reaction, when hearing the news yesterday morning that Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif had failed drug tests, was 'What?!!'. Then, when good old Malcolm Speed gave his first reaction to the latest drama to confront both Pakistan cricket and the wider world game and pointed out that the drugs involved were not recreational but 'performance enhancing', my first reaction was 'Performance enhancing? You mean someone's invented an illicit substance that helps you bowl a good line and length? Give me some of it now and the village batsmen of Devon will have to watch out next season.'
Of course, the truth was somewhat different.
Nobody has come up with an easy route to the seam bowler's penetrative nirvana of a tight off-stump line and just enough pace, deviation and bounce to trouble any batsman. All you can do is find yourself a body and an action like Glenn McGrath's and work like hell. Then you might just get somewhere.
And, even, if there were such a drug, there's no evidence to support the idea that Asif would need it. At times, after regaining his fitness for the latter stages of Pakistan's tour of England in the late summer of 2006, he looked for all the world like one of the most skilled young bowlers to hit the international scene in many years. Line and length, plus enough pace, movement and bounce to trouble virtually anyone.
As for Shoaib, like Asif he hardly needs any drugs to improve his bowling. He has as much if not more raw speed than anyone else who's ever laced up a bowling boot and the ability to land it in the right place as much as necessary. His only problems have usually been his head and his body. Which is where we came in.
It soon became clear that both Shoaib and Asif had tested positive for Nandrolone, a substance which, as those in the know queued up to tell us yesterday, enables players to train harder and recover from injury quicker than would otherwise be the case. Both players were injured for the majority of the England tour, before making late recoveries, so are we to suppose that they might not have recovered so quickly and made those comebacks if they hadn't been taking something they shouldn't have?
Who knows? It's been stressed ever since that the players' 'B' samples have yet to be tested but these rarely contradict the results of the initial tests, so it looks as though we have another 'cricket crisis' on our hands. The talk is of two-year bans, and, when Shane Warne got a year for taking a diuretic given to him by his mum, that's probably about right.
Shoaib has protested his innocence but everybody who's ever tested positive for any substance in any sport has done that. Which doesn't mean that he's guilty, merely that we need to ignore what both he and the media are saying until the second samples have been tested.
Just when Speed thought he'd managed to shift the fallout from The Oval off his desk another pile of dirty linen has been deposited there.
And, for once, Darrell Hair's nowhere to be seen...
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