Umar Gul... ‘I feel really confident because of my current form and fitness’
KARACHI: Less than a week after lifting the World Twenty20 trophy at Lord’s, Pakistan’s cricketers flew out to Sri Lanka on Saturday still hungry for more glory.
Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam was confident that his charges will give their best during the 45-day tour but made it clear that fitness will be the key to their success in Sri Lanka where they will play three Tests, five One-day Internationals and a Twenty20 game.
“Playing a Test series in Sri Lanka is always very challenging because of the hot and humid weather,” he said. “That is why fitness would be of utmost importance. But I’m pretty confident because my players are fully committed and motivated,” he stressed before his departure for Colombo from Lahore.
The players left in two different batches from Karachi and Lahore. Skipper Younis Khan left from Karachi along with Umar Gul, Fawad Alam, Faisal Iqbal and Khurram Manzoor while nine other players flew out of Lahore on Saturday. Leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, returning to the Pakistan squad for the first time since the 2007 Test against India in Bangalore, will join the team in Colombo from England where he has been playing county cricket.
Pakistan will open the tour with a three-day practice match against a Sri Lanka Cricket XI in Colombo from Monday (tomorrow). The first Test starts in Galle on July.
Intikhab is looking forward to an interesting series.
“Sri Lanka have quality spinners in (Muttiah) Muralitharan and (Ajantha) Mendis but our batting is good and I hope it will be up to the challenge of playing in the heat and against two world-class spinners,” he said.
Pakistan’s batting line-up has received a shot in the arm with the comeback of premier batsman Mohammad Yousuf, who broke his ties with the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) and was subsequently recalled in the touring party.
Yousuf, 34, said that he is eyeing a successful return to international cricket.
“I want to make my international comeback a memorable one,” said Yousuf, whose last Test was in Bangalore in December 2007.
“It will not be easy because when you play international cricket after a big gap it’s always tough, but I will do my best to perform my role in the team’s win against Sri Lanka, who are a very tough team on their home grounds.”
Also back in the Test is senior all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, who played a key role in Pakistan’s World Twenty20 campaign.
Razzaq was confident that Pakistan will do well in Sri Lanka. “The way our team is playing I believe we will be favourites to win the series.”
Pakistan squad: Younis Khan (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq (vice captain), Salman Butt, Khurrum Manzoor, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Fawad Alam, Umar Gul, Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Aamir, Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rauf. Coach: Intikhab Alam.