Akhtar can still make the difference: Malik

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/s/shoaibakhtar_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik said that Shoaib Akhtar's fiery pace could make a difference for his team in the one-dayers against Sri Lanka.

Updated: January 19, 2009 14:47 IST
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Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik on Monday said that Shoaib Akhtar's fiery pace could make a difference for his team in the one-dayers against Sri Lanka but refused to commit that the fast bowler will be in the playing eleven in the first ODI against the islanders on Tuesday.

"He is a big asset for the team and you will see the difference tomorrow if he plays," Malik said at the pre-match press conference at the national stadium here.

"He has been working hard and we need senior players in the side," he added.

But when asked if Akhtar would play tomorrow, Malik said naming the playing XI was a decision which would be taken collectively and not just by himself.

"We had originally planned to play four pacers in the first match but looking at the pitch today we might have to settle with three fast bowlers," he said.

Akhtar has been embroiled in several controversies for the past one year and even his inclusion in the category A of PCB's new central contracts this month has raised eyebrows.

Akhtar was part of the Pakistan team that beat West Indies 3-0 in Abu Dhabi last November but couldn't play at all because of an injury he sustained during training.

Malik said the Pakistani team had prepared a game plan for Sri Lanka's mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis.

"We have played him before and I thought our boys handled him well. He is a very good bowler but we can't waste our energies just concentrating on him in this series which is very important for us," he said.

Sri Lankan coach Trevor Bayliss has no doubt that Akhtar would be a difficult customer to deal with for his batsmen. "He adds a new dimension to any pace attack and if he plays it will be a good contest between him and our players," Bayliss said.

Bayliss also made it clear that Sri Lanka were not thinking of the fact that Pakistan had of late not played too much international cricket.

"Look if they are rusty we will try to take advantage of that but they are among the top sides in the world and very dangerous and they have some great performers," he said.

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