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‘It’s a challenging assignment’
- This is a difficult time for our cricket... That’s why I immediately agreed: Intikhab Alam

Calcutta: For much of the Nineties, whenever there was a crisis, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) kept giving the coach’s job back to Intikhab Alam. The other day, he received another call, this time to serve on the three-member tribunal for probing the doping scandal featuring spearheads Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif.

“It’s a challenging assignment... It’s a tough time for cricket in Pakistan, but I’m not under pressure... In fact, whatever the role, I’ve never been under pressure and have tried to function to the best of my ability,” the Lahore-based Intikhab, also a former captain, told The Telegraph Thursday.

At one time, he’d resolved not to have anything to do with the PCB, but didn’t think twice when PCB chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf (a federal minister) personally telephoned. “Well, a new set-up is in place and, as I’ve pointed out, this is a difficult time for our cricket... That’s why I immediately agreed to the request.”

[Incidentally, had his visa not been delayed, Intikhab would’ve been in Mohali working with the Punjab cricketers in the lead-up to another season. Now, he’s expected in “ten days or so,” informed a senior Punjab Cricket Association official. Intikhab has been coaching Punjab from 2004-05.]

Reacting to the impression that he may be somewhat sympathetic towards the cricketers, Intikhab said: “My colleagues and I will be looking to unearth the truth, nothing more and nothing less... Justice has to be done...”

Legal eagle Shahid Hamid is heading the tribunal, which is going to include an expert in the field of sports medicine.

Intikhab added: “The spotlight is on the Pakistani cricketers, but the PCB should be complimented for not trying to brush things under the carpet... Keeping quiet would’ve been easy, but it chose to be forthright... Of course, till all the facts are known, one doesn’t know whether Nandrolone was taken out of ignorance or...”

Significantly, he took the Andrew Leipus line on the use of the banned drug for enhancing performance. “Cricket is skills-driven and I refuse to believe that a particular drug or drugs can lift the level of performance... To my mind, a mediocre cricketer can’t become good simply by using drugs.”

Agreeing with International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed that all ten Test-playing nations must make dope tests mandatory, Intikhab observed: “More than anything else, that will send a strong message to the cricketers... The sport is going to benefit.”

Besides Pakistan, only Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa have a “structure” in place for dope tests. The Pakistani cricketers’ samples were sent to a Wada-accredited lab in Malaysia. Samples taken randomly during the ongoing Champions Trophy, too, will be sent there.

Meanwhile, according to manager Talat Ali (who was contacted in Mohali), replacements Yasir Arafat and Abdul Rahman have arrived.

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