DHAKA, Jan 2: Pakistan cricket captain Waqar Younis predicted a whitewash over Bangladesh as his team arrived here Wednesday for its first-ever Test series against the South Asian minnows.
“We have come for a clean sweep,” Waqar told reporters.
The Pakistan team was forced to make a lengthy detour via Dubai in order to get to Bangladesh after India closed its air space to all Pakistani aircraft because of escalating military tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Pakistan will play two Tests and three one-dayers against Bangladesh, who have lost eight of their nine Tests since gaining Test status in 2000.
Bangladesh scored an upset one-day victory over Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup in England, but Pakistan coach Mudassar Nazar said there would be no surprises on this tour.
“Our aim is to win all matches,” said Mudassar. “Otherwise, I would be unhappy with my team. We have some new players, like Naved Latif and Shadab Kabir, who are being prepared for the 2003 World Cup.”
Former captain Wasim Akram also was enthusiastic about the forthcoming series.
“I am still playing because of my love for cricket,” he said. “I love playing in Dhaka more than anywhere else because of the crowd support.”
Pakistan will test out controversial fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar during the opening match, new coach Mudassar Nazar said.
Mudassar said the 26-year-old Shoaib, whose bowling has been under scrutiny after being reported twice last year, would play against Bangladesh ‘A’ in the three-day opening fixture starting Saturday.
Shoaib, who last played for Pakistan against England in May last year, rejoins the team after playing club cricket in Australia.
“The players were out of Test cricket for quite some time following the cancellation of New Zealand’s tour of Pakistan (in October), but that will not make any difference in Dhaka,” said Waqar.
He said he expected a friendly series but said his team would play “professionally”.
He added: “We have some youngsters, who are being groomed for the World Cup in South Africa next year.”
Bangladesh, cricket’s newest test nation, have lost eight of their first nine tests and were saved by the rain in the other.
Bangladesh cricket officials on Wednesday, meanwhile, confirmed their interest in hosting Pakistan’s Test series against West Indies if both sides agreed. West Indies have pulled out of their tour to Pakistan next month because of concerns over regional tensions.
“We are in close contact with the Pakistan Cricket Board in this regard,” said Bangladesh Cricket Board director Syed Ashraful Hoque.
Pakistan’s 15-man squad includes several young players but there is still a place for veteran all-rounder Wasim Akram and Shadab Kabir, who last played in 1997-98 but showed his form with almost 700 runs in the recent Patron’s Trophy competition.
Opening batsman Saeed Anwar was in the original squad but pulled out with a wrist injury.
The first Test is scheduled to start here next Wednesday, while the second will be played at the southeastern port city of Chittagong from Jan 16.
The first one-dayer will be played at Chittagong on Jan 22, followed by two in Dhaka on Jan 25 and 26.
Squad: Waqar Younis (captain), Inzamam-ul-Haq, Taufiq Umar, Faisal Iqbal, Yousuf Youhana, Naveed Latif, Younis Khan, Rashid Latif, Saqlain Mushtaq, Danish Kaneria, Wasim Akram, Mohammad Sami, Abdur Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Shadab Kabir.—AFP/Reuters