JOHANNESBURG: Pakistan captain Younus Khan on Tuesday was ruled out of the Champions Trophy match against an under-strength West Indies due to a finger injury.
‘It is most unlikely that he will play. He will start practising from tomorrow and I am sure he will be ready to play against India in the next match,’ Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam told reporters on the eve of Wednesday’s match.
‘It happened during a warm-up game. The injury is not serious. It’s a hairline fracture. He is a strong person and does not want to miss a match. He will start practising so that he could be fit for the remaining games.’
All-rounder Shahid Afridi will lead in Younus’s absence in what would be his first one-day international as captain. He has already led the side in a Twenty20 match in Sri Lanka.
Afridi said they were not under-estimating the West Indies side, missing star players Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivanaraine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo following a contract row between the players and their cricket board.
‘Our team is good in bowling and batting. It is a balanced team and one of the best one-day sides, but I don’t take any team lightly. It is our first match of the tournament,’ said Afridi.
‘In one-day cricket, we should not think that we can win easily against any team. There have been examples when big teams have lost.’
Afridi denied that he would be under pressure in his new role.
‘I don’t think I’ll be under pressure. A cricketer should know how to handle pressure. I have got the support of my team and coach, so I don’t think I’ll need to take any pressure,’ he said.
‘After winning the Twenty20 World Cup (in England) this year, there are a lot of expectations from us. We are very keen to win this competition. We want to play well and hard and we are very focused on this competition.’
Pakistan will meet arch-rivals India and defending champions Australia in their remaining two matches of the four-team group. The top two sides advance to semi-finals.
Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Asif returned to the side after serving a one-year ban for a failed dope test.
‘Today is the last day of his ban and he then becomes available for selection,’ said Alam.
‘It’s good for the team that he has made a comeback. He is a match-winner and it will be a big challenge for him.’
West Indies captain Floyd Reifer said his inexperienced team’s objective was to play competitive cricket.
‘When you have come to a major tournament you want to do well. Our first aim is to do well, but the major thing is to keep improving,’ said Reifer.
‘It’s a 50-over match and any team that plays better on the day will win. If you do well in all three departments of the game you have an opportunity to win. We are confident and looking forward to the challenge.
‘We want to bat, bowl and field well. This is how we are going to approach this game. We will just go there and play tough cricket.’