Pakistan ready for Sri Lankan series

Pakistan’s new Twenty20 captain Mohammad Hafeez has said he expects a tough contest in all three formats against Sri Lanka.

“We all know that Sri Lanka is always good on their own soil and we are looking forward to a very tough series,” Hafeez said at a media conference held a few hours after the team’s arrival on Monday for a seven-week tour.

“We have experience playing them in the recent past and had good success against them,” he said, referring to the Test and ODI series victories when the sides met in the UAE late last year. “I personally feel the boys have worked really hard in the last one and a half months. Although we were not playing any international cricket (recently) some of the guys were doing their own training and the PCB arranged some matches for us to get match practice.”

The Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore was happy with the team’s preparation for the series. “Although Pakistan is unable to play any international matches at home due to the security concerns in their country, they managed to practice together before coming to Sri Lanka,” he said. “We had a pretty decent two weeks camp before we came here finishing up with some practices that were attended by conservatively 15,000 people who were starved of cricket and they just loved them.

“The advantage a country like Sri Lanka has, apart from IPL of course, is they are all centralised in one spot. In our case a lot of the boys are spread out. There are a lot of weeks of build-up before we come together for a camp. From that point of view you can’t be in all the places at once taken in good faith that they are working and the boys have. But the two weeks was very good at the other end.”

Whatmore served as head coach of the Sri Lanka team on two occasions and is best remembered for guiding them to win the World Cup in 1996 in his first attempt. “That was a long time ago when I finished with Sri Lanka and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. I maintain some friendships which are always good but the task here is to win. It will be nothing less than working 100% to achieve that. The longer goal is to take Pakistan high up in the rankings in all three formats. It’s a simple statement but it requires a lot of work.”

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene said that it was a good challenge for his team to play Pakistan at home. “If you take their performances in the last six months they have performed well in all three formats. To play them in our conditions is a good challenge,” Jayawardene said. “We must move forward from the series against England. One-day cricket is important to us and also the T20 because in another 3-4 months we have the World T20 so the T20 matches against Pakistan and the two we will play against India in July are extremely important to us.”

Pakistan being their tour of Sri Lanka with two T20 Internationals at Hambantota on June 1 and 3 before moving into the five-match ODI series and the Tests. (ESPN Cricinfo)