Sat, Nov 03, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Pakistan arrive in India to begin six week tour


Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik promised on Thursday to play exciting cricket during a six-week tour of India.

"Playing India is always exciting, we all love to play India," Malik told reporters after the Pakistan team arrived in New Delhi for the tour comprising five limited-overs internationals and three Tests matches.

"We're eager to play exciting and competitive cricket," said Malik, whose team was escorted out of New Delhi's international airport by security staff that blocked a crowd of fans from approaching the players.

Pakistan's coach, former Australian test player Geoff Lawson, said he was anxious to experience the atmosphere of an India-Pakistan series, which he termed the biggest rivalry in world cricket.

"I think an India-Pakistan contest is bigger than the Ashes," said Lawson. "I understand a fair bit what happens here when India plays Pakistan. It's more than a cricket contest, it becomes a national rivalry."

The Pakistan team is without paceman Mohammad Asif who dropped out of the limited-overs internationals due to an elbow injury just before the team embarked on the tour.

"Asif's a quality player. We'll always miss him, but we have quality replacements," Lawson said.

The Pakistan team still features four pace bowlers in Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Rao Iftikhar and Sohail Tanveer.

Lawson said the Pakistan team had learnt a lot from its mistakes during the recent one-day series against South Africa that Graeme Smith's team won 3-2.

Lawson said he was not bothered by that fact that India have been dubbed the stronger side for the upcoming one-day series that begins on Monday in the northeastern city of Gauhati.

"Whether we start as the favorites or not, what matters is how players handle the pressure," he said. "There's very little difference between the two sides."

Pakistan opened the tour with a seven wicket victory in a one-day match against a Delhi XI yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Indian cricket board said it would ask its government to loosen a restriction that will see just 250 tickets per match sold to Pakistani fans.

Niranjan Shah, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, said on Thursday that the allocation was too small and that the board would ask for more tickets for traveling Pakistani fans.

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