LAHORE - For the last two years, if it is bad news, it either has to be Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammad Asif together or alternating with each other. On Sunday at Dubai's international airport, it was Asif's turn to put Pakistan cricket in a tizzy when he was caught with some contraband substance (what exactly it is or how much was still not known) and was promptly detained. The issue was quite amazingly kept under wraps by the PCB for about 48 hours, till Tuesday morning, when one satellite channel broke the news, and then the fertilizer hit the fan. The subterfuge from the PCB was rather imaginative. It named Asif in a squad of 16 for the tri-nation tournament in Bangladesh when it knew that he was in the slammer and its director human resources Nadeem Akram had already been dispatched to Dubai post haste to hire a firm of legal eagles to try and salvage a situation that was pretty nasty. It was also learnt that the PCB chairman had sought the government's intervention at the highest level to save Asif's skin and though he succeeded in securing it, it had not produced the desired result for him. In the end this may turn out to be the best bet for the PCB and Asif. So by the afternoon, when the press conference cancelled at noon time, by PCB's chief operating officer Shafqat Naghmi took place, rumours abounded, one even mentioning a tipsy Asif having slapped or otherwise misbehaved with some official at the Dubai airport which led to his detention. Before sitting down to face the press Naghmi perhaps wanted to have Asif's first appearance in front of a prosecutor behind him, and maybe hoping that by some miracle his release would have been secured. With that not happening, the press conference itself was a set of the usual evasions: "It was a misunderstanding; Asif had not been indicted yet; the real nature of substance supposed to be contraband is not known; Dubai has very strict laws and people were unaware of them". Naghmi also mentioned that the PCB was eager to see Asif back soon enough to join the Dacca-bound team. Already having tested positive for use of steroids and slapped with a one-year ban that was later overturned on appeal on a technicality, if Asif is indeed found guilty, the harsh law of the desert sheikhdom may come down heavily on him and one source in the Board divulged that he can be sentenced to anything between one to four years. According to the same source, that remains a serious possibility, as do a pardon or a life ban to enter Dubai. Whatever the facts of the matter, and whatever the outcome of this incident, Pakistan's name is again in the international sporting headlines for all the wrong reasons. Another point to ponder is the ramifications for Pakistan cricket. Whether his appeal against a five-year ban is upheld or turned down, Pakistan has already more or less lost Akhtar, and our next big hope of a spearhead of genuine quality has now sadly turned out to be another serial offender.