Pakistan are banking on a fresh set of players to deliver as they seek to avenge Sri Lanka’s Test victory in a one-day series starting today.
Pakistan were beaten in a Test series for the first time on Sri Lankan soil when Younus Khan’s men lost the first two matches before drawing the final game in Colombo last week.
But Younus is confident a change in personnel and infusion of new blood for the five one-day matches will revive the tourists and provide entertaining cricket for fans.
“There are many players in the team who did not play the Test series, and they are keen to prove that Pakistan are one of the best one-day teams in the world,” he said.
“The Tests are behind us, we look forward to doing well in the one-dayers,” said Younus, who led Pakistan to victory over Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 final at Lord’s, England last month.
All-rounder Shahid Afridi, who was man of the match in both the semi-final and final of the World Twenty20, returns to bolster the tourists after opting out of the Test series.
Pakistan will also welcome back seamer Rana Naved, 31, and opening batsman Imran Nazir, 27, who will represent the country once again after breaking links with the unauthorized Indian Cricket League.
All eyes, however, will be on talented 19-year-old batsman Umar Akmal, the younger brother of wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, who forced his way onto the side with impressive scores in domestic cricket.
Umar hit an unbeaten 101 in a warm-up match in Kurunegala on Monday when Pakistan failed to chase down Sri Lanka A’s 348-6 by just 15 runs.
Sri Lanka, meanwhile, will be boosted by the return of world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan and fast bowler Lasith Malinga after they both missed the Test series with knee injuries.
Muralitharan, who has taken more Test (770) and one-day (505) wickets than any other bowler, will lend experience to the hosts’ bowling attack in the absence of veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas.
Vaas retired from Test cricket after the Pakistan series, but was ignored for the one-dayers despite insisting he would play limited-overs cricket till the 2011 World Cup.
Middle-order batsman Thilan Samaraweera returns to the one-day arena after four years, but Tillakaratne Dilshan will miss the series after sustaining finger and eye injuries during the third Test.
Upul Tharanga is expected to open the innings with veteran Sanath Jayasuriya.