Defending champions Pak to leave for West Indies today amidst high hopes

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Lahore, Apr.24 (ANI): Defending champions Pakistan would be leaving for the West Indies for the ICC World T20 Championship today (April 24) amidst high hopes of retaining the coveted title.

The 15-member Pakistan contingent led by swashbuckling all rounder Shahid Afridi would reach St. Lucia via Dubai and London.

Pakistan, which would start its campaign against Bangladesh on May 1, has a good blend of youth and experience in the squad, but they would have to perform and give more than 100 percent if they have to pocket the World T20 Championship for a second consecutive time.

Players like middle order batsman Misbah-ul-Haq, all rounder Abdul Razzaq, and fast bowler Mohammed Asif along with skipper Afridi would have to utilise their experience to good effect and guide youngsters like bastman Umar Akmal, spinner Saeed Ajmal and young pace sensation Mohammad Aamer.

However, Pakistan would be badly missing fast bowler Umar Gul and all rounder Yasir Arafat, both of whom have outstanding statistics in the shortest version of the game,

Both Gul and Aarafat failed to recover on time from injuries picked during the training camp in Lahore, and were subsequently ruled of the tournament. They have been replaced by fast bowler Mohammed Sami and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt has urged the media and people of the country to cast aside all controversies and support the national team.

"The media focus too much on creating controversies or issues. At times even the minor issues are blown out of proportion. The national team is now going to the West Indies for an important assignment and I think the media and the people need to support players completely," The Daily Times quoted Butt, as saying.

Pakistan's last visit to the West Indies, for the 2007 World Cup, was a rather forgettable one with the team members mired in all sorts of controversy, after the 1992 champions were eliminated in the first round following a humiliating defeat at the hands of minnows Ireland.

The very next day the then coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica, which made matters worse.

However, wicket keeper Kamran Akmal and Sami, who were part of the 2007 squad, said that the team is going to the Caribbean with a positive friend of mind and has left the bad memories of 2007 behind.

"Whatever happened in 2007 is now history," said Akmal.

Sami said though the incidents of that year were hard to forget, he is going to the West Indies with renewed passion and wants to do well for his side.

Pakistan's contingent for West Indies:

Shahid Afridi (captain), Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Khalid Latif, Misbahul Haq, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdul Rehman, Hammad Azam, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and Saeed Ajmal. Officials: Waqar Younis (coach), Ijaz Ahmed (assistant coach), Yawar Saeed (manager), Shafqat Rana (associate manager). (ANI)

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