Hungry for capital games

The former Pakistan captain Imran Khan believes that the Abu Dhabi one-day series is great for the 'home' side.

The Pakistani cricket star turned politician, Imran Khan, says that the lack of practice will affect the 'home' team.
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DUBAI // The three-match series in Abu Dhabi could not have come at a better time for cricket-starved Pakistan, according to their former captain Imran Khan. Pakistan will take on the West Indies in three one-day internationals in Abu Dhabi, starting Nov 12. A 15-man squad was announced for the series yesterday, with Shoaib Malik retaining the captaincy and Shoaib Akhtar being named at the head of the five-man pace attack. Pakistan have not played a Test match in 2008 after Australia refused to tour in March due to security concerns, and the Abu Dhabi series will be the only international engagement before they take on India in January for three Tests, five ODIs and a Twenty20 game. "The lack of practice is obviously going to affect the team," said Khan. "The series against India is going to be a big event as Pakistan have not played a Test match for the whole year. "I hope the matches in Abu Dhabi will set the team on the right course for the series against India." Rao Iftikhar, Umar Gul, Abdul Rauf and Sohail Tanvir are the other four pacemen included in the squad for Abu Dhabi, but all eyes will be on Akhtar, who returned to the national squad in August for a four-nation Twenty20 tournament in Canada after a series of scrapes with the board kept him out of the side. Akhtar is still entangled in a legal fight with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) over the currently-suspended disciplinary ban, but forced his way into the side with a superb 4-14 in 10 overs on Sunday in the Pentagular Cup domestic competition against Punjab. "There has been significant improvement in his fitness and bowling since August and even just over the course of the last two games," said Salim Jaffer, the chairman of the selection committee and former Test fast bowler. "He was very good in this game [against Punjab] where his rhythm was back and his stamina was there too. "We want him to be with the team and get back into it because the India series is an important one. He is one of the best bowlers around and we expect him to play a big part in that series. Shoaib Malik has been retained as captain while Mohammed Yousuf, the middle-order batsman,returns to the side after missing the T20 tournament in Toronto due to delays in obtaining a visa. But there is a twist in this tale with reports of Yousuf joining the Indian Cricket League. Yousuf, who initially signed up for the rebel league in 2007 before being talked out of it by the Pakistan Cricket Board, reportedly arrived in New Delhi and will join the ICL tournament, which has a fortnight left to run. The PCB director of cricket operations Zakir Khan said: "[Yousuf's] wife told us on the telephone that he has left for India to play in the ICL. He did not inform us about his travel plans to India and we are trying to contact him directly." A move to the rebel league would seem likely to end Yousuf's international career. The other concern for Pakistan is the health of Nasir Jamshed, the left-handed opener who has just recovered from malaria and will undergo a fitness test before flying to Abu Dhabi. The Pakistan squad to meet the West Indies in Abu Dhabi: Shoaib Malik (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Fawad Alam, Abdur Rauf, Saeed Ajmal. * With agencies