AFP

DHAKA-The West Indies have an ace up their sleeve in Saqlain Mushtaq as the defending champions take on Pakistan in a make-or-break World Twenty20 encounter in Dhaka on Tuesday. Saqlain, the former Pakistan off-spinner, is a key member on the West Indies bench as their spin bowling consultant for the tournament, and his advice has benefited the team immensely.

West Indies captain Darren Sammy said Saqlain's serene presence and knowledge had proved a huge boost for his team, which will face a four-pronged Pakistan spin attack led by the prolific Saeed Ajmal. "Saqlain has a lot of experience on the slow wickets that one gets in Bangladesh," he said. "He's very calm guy who knows a lot about the game. He has been a good addition to our coaching staff."

Pakistan captain M Hafeez said Saqlain was entitled to work with other teams -- just like compatriot Mushtaq Ahmed was doing with England -- but that did not worry his team. "He was a world-class spinner," Hafeez said of Saqlain, who retired 10 years ago with 208 Test and 288 one-day wickets. "But he does not have a magic formula, nor can he come and bowl himself. The 37-year-old Saqlain said he was delighted to work with the West Indies, but declined to predict the winner of Tuesday's match. "It's a great opportunity and honour to be associated with such a great team like the West Indies. I don't want to pick a winner, but the team which has better self-belief will win.  My wishes are obviously with my team, which is the West Indies at the moment."

Saqlain said it was a matter of pride that spinners were performing so well in Twenty20 cricket. "In Badree and Narine, the West Indies have two very good spinners," he said. "Every team has a good spinner now. I really feel happy for them." Saqlain, the pioneer of the 'doosra', is immensely proud that the delivery will always be associated with his name and also want people to stop questioning its legality as ICC never had any problems with it.

"I always feel proud when somebody bowls a doosra or a carrom ball. If any new variation is coming into world of cricket, I feel good about it. This is ICC's duty to look (into the legality) and if they are saying everything is good, then we should appreciate that," Saqlain said.

"I thank God when they mention doosra and they mention my name along with it. It's an honour that my name is associated with that delivery. I never thought about what controversies were there. I never thought about all these things like half-sleeves and full sleeves," Saqlain answered to a query on Ravichandran Ashwin's recent statements about offies wearing full sleeves getting unfair advantage.

With a long beard and a bespectacled look, the veteran of 49 Tests and 188 ODIs was full of catchy dialogues as he spoke on how he is supporting one team and that is the West Indies.

"Obviously, my wishes are with my team and it's West Indies at the moment. And from a religious point of view, it is a part of my faith, part of my belief and I have to be honest and I will be honest. The logo that I am wearing (points at WICB crest) on my jersey is not an external thing. It's in my heart. If I remove it, then I will feel as if I am naked. My integrity is towards the West Indies," Saqlain said when asked if he was torn between head and heart as Pakistan will face West Indies tomorrow.

What does he tell his spinners about tackling opposition batsmen? "Well, I can't reveal strategy but I tell my players (WI) that with one eye, you should check your strengths. With the other eye, you should be judging the weaknesses of your opposition."

He knows what stuff Ajmal bowls but Saqlain will tell you that with some much of technology available. " Ajmal has been playing for Pakistan for quite a few years and so much information is already available. There is nothing hidden now. But when a West Indies batsman comes up to me and asks me about Ajmal, then I will have to tell him on how to tackle Ajmal. What he does and how he uses the doosra or off-spin or arm ball. Obviously, it's my job if someone is coming."