Karachi: Pakistan’s cricket squad left for Sri Lanka Saturday to compete in the Asia Cup, optimistic that the event will not be upstaged by the football World Cup now under way in South Africa.
“Football is huge, but I hope after the 90 minutes of excitement (of a World Cup game) fans will give cricket its due attention and follow the Asia Cup,” Pakistan captain
Shahid Afridi told reporters before his team left for Colombo.
The tenth Asia Cup will be played from June 15-24 in Dambulla, in central Sri Lanka, about 150 kilometres northeast of Colombo, coinciding with the month-long football tournament that opened in South Africa Friday.
Besides Pakistan, the Asia Cup will also include India, Bangladesh and hosts and defending champions Sri Lanka.
Afridi said that his team will follow the football World Cup while in Sri Lanka, but mostly on rest days.
“Like millions of Asians I also follow football and my favorite team is Brazil, so like my teammates I will follow World Cup matches as and when we have time, but the focus
remains the Asia Cup,” said Afridi.
The 13-man team first flew to Dubai from where they will reach Colombo later Saturday. Fast bowler Mohammad Asif will fly via Doha, Qatar because of a ban on visiting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a drug offence.
Asif was deported from the UAE in June 2008 after a 19-day detention for possession of a banned drug while returning home from league cricket in India.
Pakistan all-rounder Abdul Razzaq will travel to Colombo from England, where he is playing county cricket.
Afridi said he hoped his team will be in form after a turbulent three months for Pakistan cricket which saw senior players banned and fined for disciplinary violations and poor performance.
“What happened in the past is behind us,” said Afridi, who was made captain for all three forms of the game last month. “We have a blend of seniors and juniors who all know their duty well.”
In March the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) banned and fined seven players, including Afridi, following their December-January tour of Australia. They lost all three Tests,
five one-day internationals and the only Twenty20 match of the tour, which was also marred by discipline violations.
However, the board later lifted the bans on former captain Younus Khan and Shoaib Malik and reduced the fines on appeals. Afridi’s three-million-rupee (35,000-US-dollar) fine for ball-tampering was revoked.
All-rounder Rana Naved-ul-Hasan’s appeal against a one-year ban and fine is pending. Express paceman Shoaib Akhtar is also back in the team after being sidelined since
May last year because of a knee injury.