Absence of Pakistan pace pair will boost West Indies, says Lara
by AFP

Player:BC Lara, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif
Event:West Indies in Pakistan 2006/07

DateLine: 7th November 2006


The absence of doping-tainted Pakistani bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif will boost the chances of the West Indies in their series against Pakistan, captain Brian Lara said Tuesday.


"I think there is no reason to hide the fact it (the absence of Akhtar and Asif) would definitely give us the advantage," Lara told a news conference.


A 15-man West Indies squad arrived here Monday to play three Tests and a five-match one-day series against Pakistan. The first Test starts here on Saturday.


A Pakistan doping tribunal last week banned Akhtar for two years and Asif for one year after both tested positive for banned steroid nandrolone. Asif has appealed against the ban while Akhtar is to appeal in the next few days.


Lara, however, said his team would try to play good cricket to win.


"I am not worried about the advantage because what happened to Akhtar and Asif is a sorry situation. I came to know Akhtar in the world series last year and although I don't know Asif much but he has shown potential.


"It is an unfortunate situation. No team would like to lose their key players but we will have to play good cricket and know we need to improve at Test level," said Lara, whose team has won only one of their past 14 Tests.


Their lone Test win came against Pakistan on home ground last year.


However, Lara's men are doing well in one-day cricket. They reached the final of the Champions Trophy in India, eventually losing to world champions Australia in Mumbai on Sunday.


Before the eight-nation Trophy they lost to Australia in the final of a triangular one-day series in Malaysia.


Lara said he hoped his team would rise to the challenge of switching to the longer format of the Test game.


"The Champions Trophy was one-day competition so it would be important to transfer the good form into Test cricket. The boys have this opportunity to do well in the subcontinent and they are keen to do well.


"Pakistan has other good bowlers like leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, who has been successful against us in recent times so we will have to be at our best to beat them," said Lara, who started his Test career in Pakistan 15 years ago.


"My first tour was also of Pakistan and I have good memories of this country. I want to leave a nice legacy. These three Tests are important and we hope it would be a good series," he said.


The West Indies team is touring Pakistan after a gap of nine years.


They refused to tour the country over security fears in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Pakistan had to play two Tests at neutral venue Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.


The master batsman said his team were now comfortable playing in the country.


"You never know what's going to happen. But we look forward to play and enjoy cricket," he said.


West Indies' Australian coach Bennett King believes his team have the potential to do well in the Test series.


"We want to do well in (the) Test arena as it's a test of skills and we are consistently working to be very competitive. This is a very talented side but consistency is the key," said King, who took over as coach two years ago.


The second Test will be played at Multan from November 19 while the third and final match is scheduled for Karachi from November 27.


The Test series will be followed by a five-match one-day series.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)


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