COLOMBO- Pakistan will be without Saeed Ajmal for the first ODI and possibly the second ODI as well, since he is flying to Brisbane to have his bowling action tested. Misbah-ul-Haq termed Ajmal's absence a "big miss."
"It will be a big miss. His exclusion is crucial but at the same time it will be a chance for others to stand up and fulfill what normally Ajmal provides us," Misbah said, on the eve of the first ODI in Hambantota. "Everyone is capable and they have to put some effort so that we don't feel his absence."
There were fears leading up to the series-opener that Pakistan could be without Junaid Khan as well, but Misbah put them to rest saying Junaid had recovered completely from the concussion he suffered during the second Test at the SSC. Having Mohammad Irfan - who was flown in as a standby for Junaid - in the squad, Misbah said, was an added advantage to the team. Irfan has played 27 ODIs, but hasn't faced Sri Lanka yet.
"He (Irfan) is a big factor," Misbah said. "He is the kind of bowler who can really trouble the batsmen from any team. He was fit and in good shape. He hasn't played any competitive cricket recently but he played some T20 cricket back home. So he can give us an advantage."
Pakistan lost the Test series 2-0, but the arrival of experienced ODI specialists such as Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Zulfiqar Babar has freshened up the squad, and Misbah suggested the changed combination would help the team put the Test series defeat behind them and start afresh. "We have got a specialist one-day side and that will mentally boost us in the field," Misbah said. "Most of the players have adapted themselves according to the format and they know exactly what is required to shift their focus from Test to ODI. There are a lot of changes in the ODI squad and our specialist players are in really good touch and they know their role and understand what to do."
Pakistan were outplayed by Rangana Herath in the Test series, with the left-arm spinner taking 23 wickets at 15.13 to haunt the visitors. "He is a good bowler but one-day cricket is a totally different ball game," Misbah said. "He is in good form but at the same time a bowler gets to bowl only 10 overs and with a different mindset so we are looking forward to playing him, and we should not be feeling too threatened by him."