Series begins with one eye on World Cup
The one-day series between Pakistan and West Indies finally gets under way tomorrow after the first match was washed out, and Brian Lara said his team were eager to launch their World Cup campaign.
"We have been on the road for the last three months and after the first match was washed out we got the much-needed rest and now we are focused on the four remaining games," he told reporters.
The West Indies also meet India in four matches in mid-January before playing the opening match of the ninth World Cup against Pakistan on March 13 next year in Jamaica.
Lara said West Indies, who have in the past three months finished runners-up to Australia in both a tri-nation series in Malaysia and then in the Champions Trophy in India, were on track for the mega event. "We are well positioned in the one-day game. We have performed really well, not just in the Champions Trophy but we have been playing good cricket in 2006, even going back to [the] ICC [International Cricket Council] tournament [Champions Trophy in 2004 [where] we were the champions then.
"Our one-day game is not too bad but our only worry at this present time is that we are pretty close to the World Cup and the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo are not here."
Sarwan, the West Indies vice-captain and key batsman in one-dayers, fractured his right instep during the recent third Test against Pakistan and had to return home. Bravo was allowed to return home for personal reasons.
Lara hoped other players would seize the opportunity. "We actually depend a lot on Sarwan and Bravo in one-day arena but their absence will give an opportunity for younger players to stake their claims and cement their positions," he said. "Conditions in Pakistan aren't too different from ours. Pitches are normally good batting tracks so we see it as a benefit to be playing against a team ranked higher than us and if we win it will give us psychological advantage."
Inzamam-ul-Haq, Lara's opposite number, also felt that the first match washout had given players a chance to rest. "We got a good rest. It was disappointing to lose the first match but you can't do anything about rain," said Inzamam, who returned to the team after completing a four-match ban for bringing the game into disrepute in the Oval Test in August. "West Indies is a very good one-day side so we need to play at our best to beat them."
Meanwhile, Mohammad Yousuf, Pakistan's record-breaking batsman, is doubtful for the match because his wife is ill in Lahore. "I don't think he will be able to play as he has not joined the team as yet," Talat Ali, Pakistan's manager, told Reuters. "His wife is expecting and is very ill and he wants to be with her." Ali added that Yasir Hameed was a possible replacement.
Squads (from): Pakistan: Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Rao Iftikhar, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Umar Gul, Abdul Rehman
West Indies: Brian Lara (capt), Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Daren Ganga, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Runako Morton, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Denesh Ramdin, Ian Bradshaw, Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Dave Mohammed