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‘India’s absence would have left a big hole’

Colombo: Pakistani captain Waqar Younis, in a show of amity, welcomed welcomed India’s participation in the Champions Trophy, saying without the Indians the tournament would have had a “big hole.”

“The Pakistan cricket team is happy that India is coming, otherwise there would have been a big hole in the competition,” Younis said.

There was jubilation across Colombo when the news broke late last evening. Fans in this cricket-crazy island nation called each other by the telephone to spread the news.

“At last the suspense is over and I am delighted that it is a happy ending,” said Parveen Nair, the general manager of the Taj Samudra, the ICC’s host hotel.

Meanwhile, Younis said that Sri Lanka would be the team under pressure in their opening game Thursday, but admitted that his batsmen would have to perform better than they have done in the recent past.

The pressure will be on them as “it’s more important for Sri Lanka to win as they will be playing at home,” Younis said.

His team, seen as a little unpredictable in its performance, arrived here Monday after an indifferent three-nation tournament in Nairobi, where they shared the honours with Australia after rain played spoilsport in the final.

Pakistan play Sri Lanka and Holland in their league encounters. “We are not that unpredictable,” Younis said somewhat defensively.

“Sometimes the wickets don’t suit us, but we are still hoping things will get better.”

The batsmen had been struggling to get enough runs and in this tournament they needed to give their bowlers a big score to defend.

Team manager Yawar Saeed was more optimistic, saying they had come to win, and were certainly not starting “as a bottom team”. He said that since 2000, Pakistan had won 66.66 per cent of their one-day matches.

He declined to be drawn into a discussion on the controversy surrounding batsman Yusuf Youhana, who was sent back from Nairobi on disciplinary grounds after a spat with Younis. “I am friendly with the team-members, but there will be no compromise on discipline.”

Younis, like his Sri Lankan counterpart Sanath Jayasuriya, is worried about the possible slowing down of the game due to the new ICC umpiring protocol that allows leg before wicket decisions to be referred to the third umpire.

On technology trial in the expansion of TV replay usage, he said he really did not know whether it would succeed.

“We have bowlers who run in from a long distances. It may take more time.”

Coach Mudassar Nazar hinted the struggling opening pair of Saeed Anwar and young Imran Nazir could be split to try to shore up the top order.

Pakistan reached the Champions Trophy quarter finals in 1998 and the semis in 2000 when they lost to eventual winners New Zealand.

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