Pakistan would carry out their first training session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday (today) barely 12 hours after reaching the south Indian city for their limited-overs series opener against arch-rivals India.
Captained by Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s Twenty20 squad left Lahore for Bangalore via New Delhi Saturday afternoon to play a five-match series that includes two Twenty20 games and three One-day Internationals.
The tourists had a stop-over in the Indian capital before a chartered flight took them to Bangalore which would host the first Twenty20 International at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Christmas Day.
The players selected only for the three ODIs — Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Wahab Riaz, Imran Farhat and Anwar Ali — will leave for India on December 26. The ODI series begins in Chennai from December 30.
The Pakistani cricketers would be greeted with a heavy security blanket anywhere they go during the brief tour of India.
According to media reports, the Chinnaswamy Stadium has been completely barricaded and armed policemen are posted at all four corners of the main square at the stadium.
Though the series opening game is still two days away, the stadium looked like a fortress on Saturday.
But undeterred by the security cover, Pakistan are exuding confidence ahead of what is their first bilateral series against the Indians in five years.
“We are ready and prepared for the India challenge,” Hafeez told reporters at the conclusion of a training camp in Lahore last week. “We have trained so hard to get ready for the India series. India might be low at the moment [after losing to England in the Test series] but it’s a new format and they have a very balanced T20 team.
“Nobody can deny the fact that a Pakistan-India series carries intense pressure. The contest is always full of pressure and full of expectations of people of both countries. We will try to express ourselves without any pressure,” he stressed.
While Pakistan announced their team several days before the series, India would only name their squad on Sunday (today).
According to reports, Indian selectors will gather on Sunday to pick the squad for the series against Pakistan amid speculation that struggling senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar has made himself available for ODI selection.
The Indian squad is unlikely to see many changes from the one that featured against England in a T20 rubber played on Saturday night.
It is the ODI squad that would draw more attention as there are unconfirmed reports that Tendulkar has made himself available for the three-match rubber starting in Chennai.
The star cricketer had been part of the last ODI squad during the failed campaign in Bangladesh in the Asia Cup where he completed his unprecedented feat of 100 international hundreds.
Tendulkar, whose retirement has been speculated endlessly in the media and by former cricketers, has been in and out of ODIs in the last few years by choice, but with his form dipping in Tests, the 39-year-old could be eager to rediscover his successful run through the 50-over game for the upcoming four-match
Test rubber at home against Australia.
The second one-day game against Pakistan is to be held in Kolkata on January 3 followed by the last match on January 6 in Delhi.
The other focus in the selection meeting would be captaincy and as per current indications, MS Dhoni is expected to keep his job though his success record in the ODI format too, like the one in Tests, has taken a steep dip after he piloted the country to the World Cup title last year.
Zaheer Khan is another senior cricketer who is battling fitness concerns and dipping form in international cricket.
The other point of interest in the selection would be Virender Sehwag who opted out of the Twenty20 series against England. It is not known whether he has declared himself available to play in the T20 format against Pakistan. —With inputs from agencies