Lively wickets key to good series - Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar, who could end a year's absence from international cricket at home in the upcoming series against Sri Lanka, has said lively pitches - in a country with a reputation for preparing flat, slow tracks - are needed for the series to be competitive. "It is important that we have sporting wickets for the series against Sri Lanka," he said. "Only good wickets can help produce good matches."

Shoaib was included in the squad for the ODI series against West Indies in Abu Dhabi last November but missed all three matches due to fitness concerns. "I've been working hard on my fitness," he said in Karachi, where he led Federal Areas Leopards into the final of the Pentangular Cup one-day championship. "I will try my best to give a good performance against Sri Lanka. They are a strong side and I believe matches against them would be quite tough."

Sri Lanka's tour - including three Tests and five ODIs - will fill in for India, who withdrew from their scheduled series in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The ongoing Pentangular Cup features many national-level players, including Shoaib. He bowled a maiden over - the penultimate one of the match - for Leopards against NWFP Panthers in a thrilling one-run win to help his team reach the final. I told my boys to keep their hopes alive till the last ball of the match," Shoaib said. "My players really responded well. We needed match practice and this event has provided us with some good games."