Younis Khan, Pakistan's captain, does not feel that the absence of experienced players will be a deterrent to his side's first Test series in over a year. Pakistan play their first Test in over 14 months from Saturday, and have experienced a serious dearth of cricket in the country because of security reasons but Mahela Jayawardene, Younis' opposite number, expected a tough tour.
"It's true that a few seniors are not with us but they won't be with us forever," Younis said. "It's not possible that Shoaib Akhtar remains with us or I will be there, [Shahid] Afridi is not with us; we have to deal with this. I don't think it will make much difference.
"We are playing after 14 months ... when I last made a comeback after 13 months [in 2004] I scored a century in Karachi and we won the match," he said. "It was also against Sri Lanka. We have played some international cricket in recent times and that too against Sri Lanka. The boys have played first-class cricket and have an idea of the longer version of the game."
While Pakistan have yet to name their final XI, Younis confirmed that Asim Kamal, Fawad Alam and Ahmed Shahzad were not in the reckoning. That means Pakistan are likely to open with Salman Butt and Khurram Manzoor - both specialist openers, as Younis endorsed.
"Test cricket has changed [so] you can't use makeshift openers," he said. "In the past Kamran Akmal has done that, he saved the Kolkata Test for us. But I believe makeshift openers should not be tried in Test matches."
Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat, Sohail Khan and rookie Mohammad Talha feature in Pakistan's 12-man squad. "Umar is in top form, Sohail has improved a lot, Talha is our future and a proper athlete, and Arafat can bowl in any conditions," Younis said, adding that the playing XI would be decided based on the nature of the pitch in Karachi.
The match is the second-last of Jayawardene's captaincy and Younis felt it could spur him on. "Jayawardene is struggling a bit but he could make a comeback, maybe with this match [the first Test]," he said. "It's in his mind that he is going after this series so he will definitely try to fight back and leave on a good note. We can't take them [Sri Lanka] lightly, we have to play with our planning, whatever my planning is."
Jayawardene believed Younis would marshal his troops well, even with his limited captaincy experience, and would provide a stiff challenge. "Younis has handled it [captaincy] in the past so you can't call him a new captain and he is probably their most experienced player in the team right now," he said. "I'm sure he is quite capable of handling things. For us, it's all about having a gameplan against Pakistan and executing it. So that's something we are working on."
Jayawardene was unwilling to downplay Pakistan's chances, even though they were not at their strongest. "Both teams have exceptional cricketers and we thoroughly enjoyed our Test cricket over the last 12 months playing home and away," Jayawardene said. "We have some good wins against top sides and we would love to continue that."
It has been a hectic schedule for Sri Lanka for the last 12 months or so, but Jayawardene dismissed any talk of fatigue playing a part in the upcoming series. "Fortunately for us, there was quite a bit of one-day cricket for us, but the Test team is quite different," he said. "There are only four or five guys who played in one-day cricket, so most of the guys are fresh and it's good for us as a team. Once you are playing a Test you have to get into the mindset. I honestly don't feel fatigue is going to play a part in our preparations for the Tests."