Pakistan arrive for India tour

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007, 18:27 [IST]
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Pakistan's cricketers flew into India to resume the fierce cricketing rivalry that their Australian coach Geoff Lawson has described as "bigger than the Ashes."

The 15-man squad, captained by Shoaib Malik, was received by local officials and security staff at the Indira Gandhi international airport after a 45-minute flight from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.

"It is good to be back in India. We are looking forward to an enjoyable tour," Malik said before the players were whisked away to the team hotel in downtown New Delhi.

Pakistan will play five one-dayers and three Tests on the six-week tour, the fourth Test series in as many years between the neighbours after cricketing ties resumed in 2004 following a 15-year gap due to political tensions.

Pakistan last played in India in 2005 under the now retired Inzamam-ul Haq, drawing the Test series 1-1 with victory in the final match in Bangalore before crushing the hosts 4-2 in the one-dayers.

Lawson, the former Australian fast bowler who took over as Pakistan coach in August, told AFP in Lahore on Wednesday that he was excited to be part of the tour.

"Having toured India on a number of occasions I know people follow an Indo-Pakistan match with extreme passion and at times it is little bit more than the sport, bigger than the Ashes," Lawson said.

The touring side was reduced to 15 players after seamer Mohammad Asif stayed at home due to an elbow injury, which rules him out for at least the first three one-dayers.

It is uncertain if Asif will be available for the remaining two games or the subsequent Test series, but Pakistan decided against sending a replacement.

Mercurial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar will spearhead the Pakistani attack after serving a 13-match ban for misconduct.

The tourists take on Delhi at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here on Friday, their only practice match before the one-day series opens in Guwahati on Monday.

The remaining matches will be played in Mohali (Nov 8), Kanpur (Nov 11), Gwalior (Nov 15) and Jaipur (Nov 18).

The Pakistan squad for the Test series will be named later. The Tests will be held in New Delhi (Nov 22-26), Kolkata (Nov 30-Dec 4) and Bangalore (Dec 8-12).

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will lead India in the one-dayers, while the Test captain will be named on Nov 8 following Rahul Dravid's resignation in September for personal reasons.

Pakistan squad: Shoaib Malik (capt), Younis Khan (vice-capt), Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Abdul Rehman, Rao Iftikhar.

Coach: Geoff Lawson

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