Pak has edge against India, SL: Malik

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Shoaib Malik says Pakistan will make the most of their home advantage when they take on India and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup.

Updated: June 26, 2008 16:09 IST
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Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik says his team will make the most of their home advantage when they takes on four-time winner India and defending champion Sri Lanka in the six-nation Asia Cup cricket tournament starting on Tuesday.

"Pressure of competing at home is always there, but we have an edge of knowing our playing conditions very well," Malik said.

Pakistan _ winner of the 2000 Asia Cup _ are riding high despite losing two of their key fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar.

Asif was withdrawn from the Pakistan squad while he was being detained in Dubai on suspicion of possessing an illegal substance, while Akhtar was banned by the Pakistan Cricket Board for breaching the players code of conduct.

They have lost only one of their last 14 One-dayers, although 10 of their wins came against lowly ranked Zimbabwe and Bangladesh earlier this year.

Malik led Pakistan to victory against India in the triangular series final at Dhaka earlier this month after losing the league match against their rival neighbour by 140 runs.

"The morale of the team is very high after the tri-series final in Bangladesh," Malik said.

Pakistan open their campaign in Group B against unfancied Hong Kong on Tuesday in this southern port city before taking on India on Thursday.

India meet Hong Kong in the other group match on Wednesday before top two qualify for the second stage of the round robin league.

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates make up Group A.

Pakistan have included uncapped, 30-year-old offspinner Saeed Ajmal, while the selectors dropped regular wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to give the younger Sarfraz Ahmed a chance.

"Sarfraz also has the ability to bat low down the order and it's a good opportunity for him to show his skills behind the wickets," Malik said.

Hong Kong are playing only for the second time in the Asia Cup and coach Aftab Habib was looking for an upset victory against Pakistan.

"Cricket is a funny game, lots of teams have done upsets in the World Cup and we are quite optimistic for tomorrow's match," said Habib, a former England Test batsman.

Hong Kong captain Tabarak Dar rated India as a much stronger opponents than Pakistan in Group B.

"It's a great opportunity for us to play against two of the big teams in international cricket, but I feel India is a much stronger side in our pool," Dar said.

Bangladesh, who are expected to progress to the second round from Group A with Sri Lanka, will meet the UAE in at Lahore on Tuesday.

Coach Jamie Siddons, who watched Bangladesh lose 5-0 against Pakistan earlier this year and also lost both league games in the tri-series at Bangladesh against India and Pakistan, conceded his team needed to play more international games against strong sides.

"We are not equivalent to them but it takes time to develop a young side like us," Siddons said. "The more we play against these teams the more we are going to improve."

Defending champion Sri Lanka suffered a blow when all-rounder Farveez Maharoof was ruled out due to abdominal strain while bowling during a practice match last Friday and was replaced by left-arm medium fast bowler Thilan Thushara.

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