Lahore: Pakistan's squad fly to Britain early on Tuesday, seeking to win next month's Champions Trophy and avoid any repetition of the scandal that marred their last British tour in 2010.
The spot-fixing scandal, disclosed by the now defunct News of the World, was related to the deliberate bowling of no-balls in return for money during the Lord's Test against England. It resulted in bans on then-captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir as well as jail terms for the trio and their agent Mazhar Majeed.
Pakistan's manager Naveed Akram Cheema said the players had been briefed extensively to avoid any controversy. "We have briefed the players that this is a very sensitive tour and they should maintain strict discipline as we don't want a repeat of 2010 events," Cheema told reporters. "Players are told to restrict their off-the-field movement."
A special "vigilance" officer will accompany the squad in addition to a regular security officer. Pakistan will play two one-day games each against Scotland and Ireland before competing in the eight-nation Champions Trophy in England from June 6-23. They are in group B along with arch-rivals India, the West Indies and South Africa. Holders Australia, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand form group A.
Captain Misbah-ul Haq, not a member of the fateful 2010 tour, said the team can succeed. "I think there are no favourites for the trophy," he said. "We have a talented team and if all the players play their roles accordingly, then we can win the tournament. We have selected a squad specifically for English conditions."
Misbah said Pakistan have a balanced team, with a strong bowling attack. "We have world-class spinners and some quality pace bowlers in Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan, but it is a matter of how we execute our plans and everybody does his job," he said.
Pakistan have off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman while opener Mohammad Hafeez also bowls off-spin. All-rounder Shahid Afridi and experienced batsman Younis Khan were not selected while spearhead Umar Gul was ruled out with a knee injury.
Head coach Dav Whatmore also said the team will aim for the title. "We always want to open a series or a tournament with a win and that's what we are going to do in the Champions Trophy," said Whatmore, a former Australian batsman. Our team is balanced and strong and we have prepared well for the event."