India series a 'tough one' - Whatmore
With India and Pakistan set to face-off in a bilateral series for the first time in five years, Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore is excited. On the opening day of Pakistan's preparatory camp in Lahore, he said he is 'very keen to play the series' and take on the challenge of playing India in India.
"India v Pakistan in India is not going to be an easy one, particularly with the added interest of the neighbours playing each other [for the first time in a while]," Whatmore said at the Gaddafi Stadium. "But it's fantastic. I can tell you players from both sides respect each other, we are fellow professionals. We understand the pressures that exist but sadly there are a number other people who build it up as something different … But that's the way it is. We are very keen to play our neighbours and we are looking forward to it very much."
The series, which begins with a Twenty20 in Bangalore on December 25, will be the first bilateral series between the two sides since Pakistan toured India in late 2007. They have since met in multinational tournaments, but bilateral ties between the two were put on hold following the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. India had withdrawn from their planned tour of Pakistan in 2009 and, after the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore that stalled international cricket in Pakistan, have not agreed to play a series at a neutral venue as has been the case with all Pakistan's 'home' series.
"It's a privilege to be involved in series like this," Whatmore said. "I've been involved in the odd match at ICC events and Asian Cricket Council events, but this will be first time we'll play more that two or three times in a small series.
"It will be an experience, particularly playing in India, where the fans are also very keen to come out and have a look and support their team."
Saeed Ajmal will be Pakistan's trump card, Whatmore said. "We will pick our group of bowlers depending on the conditions. You can't do that until you've had a look [at the conditions]. We feel we've enough boys in the group to satisfy the requirements of any conditions. But Saeed Ajmal will always remain a trump card for us, he will always remain a threat [for the opposition]."
Despite India's struggles during the ongoing England Test series, Whatmore refused to be complacent. "England are playing very well at the moment and India have a big job to square the series. But one Test series [results] doesn't necessarily mean that they are weak, we all know how good they have been over many years. I wouldn't read much into that."
Fifteen players of the 22 who will travel to India for the two* Twenty20s and three ODIs attended the inaugural day of the camp; Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Anwar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq were absent due to various reasons.
*02.13GMT, December 15: The article had said 'three Twenty20s'. This has been corrected.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent