So it’s goodbye to Mohammad Asif. He’ll be 33 when his latest ban expires, and more than likely he’ll be deemed too rusty/old/controversial to be picked for Pakistan again. What a bowler to lose: 106 wickets at 24.36 in 23 Tests (along with two positive tests for steroids and a bit of spot-fixing between times).
Look up ‘wobble’ in future cricket lexicons and you might find that it is defined as ‘Mohammad Asif’. Wobble is one of the most effective qualities a fast bowler can have; the ball to nip one way or the other, just enough, as opposed to booming swing which defeats batsman but doesn’t always take wickets. Wobble might also describe how a batsman felt when they faced Asif.
Asif had no need for speed for he had wobble. And he achieved it with the sort of control of the ball I rarely manage when flipping a pancake. Almost invariably, it landed where and how he wanted. High skill delivered by a supple, hypnotic action.
The lasting memory of the 2010 summer will be the dark clouds which literally and figuratively hung above Lord’s on the final day of another infamous England-Pakistan series. But I shall also remember watching Asif and Amir produce some of the most skilful swing bowling I have seen. They were the hottest swing pair in town, bowling in the best swing conditions in the world.
As one punter said on the King Cricket website, “I want to watch Asif and Amir, **** your morals.”
Of course, they had to be punished. It’s all pointless otherwise. But I can empathise with the sentiment. The game is poorer for the loss of these two outstanding bowlers.
Amir may return. For the elegant Asif, it is surely one ban too many.
Benj Moorehead is editorial assistant of The Wisden Cricketer