|Event:||Sri Lanka in Pakistan 2008/09|
DateLine: 20th February 2009
Pakistan's newly-appointed captain Younus Khan said his new-look team would not be under pressure when they take on Sri Lanka in their first Test in 14 months starting here Saturday.
The 31-year-old, leading Pakistan in the two-Test series against Sri Lanka, has to overcome the problems of lack of match play and absence of key players, including star batsman Mohammad Yousuf and frontline paceman Shoaib Akhtar.
Yousuf is banned from international cricket for featuring in the rebel Indian Cricket League, while injury ruled Akhtar out of the two-Test series.
Younus, who took over from Shoaib Malik following Pakistan's humiliating 2-1 one-day defeat against Sri Lanka last month, dismissed the problems.
"True, we are playing a Test after 14 months but our players have been featuring in domestic matches and I hope it will not affect our performance," Younus said on Friday.
Drug and disciplinary problems and a series of poor results plunged Pakistan into crisis before multiple bomb blasts and the Mumbai attacks robbed the team of playing opportunities.
Pakistan's last Test match was against India at Bangalore in December 2007.
Younus said he believes the team's new players will deliver.
"These seniors won't be with us forever.... it's not possible for Akhtar to remain with us nor will I be there all the time. Some newcomers have come and I hope they fill up the gap," he said.
Sri Lanka have no such problems, having played eight Tests last year, including a home series win over formidable India, and a settled squad.
The tourists have a balanced bowling attack with spinners Muttiah Muralitharan, with a world record 769 Test wickets, and Ajantha Mendis, along with paceman Chaminda Vaas.
Skipper Mahela Jayawardene is confident -- but not ready to rule out Pakistan just yet.
"Both the teams have exceptional cricketers and we thoroughly enjoyed our Test cricket over the last 12 months and have some good wins against top sides. We would love to continue that," said Jayawardene.
"I know Pakistan has not played Tests for some time but you still can't underestimate their capabilities so it's going to be a good tough series."
Sri Lanka lost the limited overs two-day tour match by 112 runs ahead of the Test, but Jayawardene believed it provided enough practice for his players.
"It was good for all of us, we were trying to do different things," said Jayawardene, who steps down as captain after the series.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed the captaincy and look forward to the last two Tests as captain. You can still be a leader when you are not the captain."
(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)