Islamabad: Offspinner Saeed Ajmal will be Pakistan's "trump card" during their short cricket tour of India this month, coach Dav Whatmore said on Friday. The 35-year-old Ajmal is ranked No. 1 in one-day internationals and Twenty20s, with 109 wickets in 71 ODIs and 69 wickets in 48 T20s.
"Saeed Ajmal will always remain a trump card for us as we all know he's a wonderful bowler," Whatmore said in Lahore. "He's very much needed, and he will always remain a threat."
Ajmal's doosra that turns away from the right-handers continues to baffle batsmen. But he's expected to have to share an extra workload in the one-dayers after enigmatic allrounder Shahid Afridi was dropped by the selectors due to poor form.
Pakistan's short training camp was confined to the National Cricket Academy in Lahore due to rain on Friday. Former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was expected to pass on batting advice before the team leaves for India on Dec. 22.
"He's been a stalwart for Pakistan cricket and he's only recently retired so he's able to pass on some knowledge against contemporary bowlers he has faced," Whatmore said.
Inzamam has been appointed as a batting consultant on a series-to-series basis by the Pakistan Cricket Board.
"He has faced the Indian bowlers so he is able to work with our players and discuss and let them know how he approached the same bowlers that we are going to approach."
The series, the first between the neighbours in five years, features two T20s and three ODIs beginning at Bangalore on Dec. 25.
Tours between them were suspended when 166 people were killed in the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, which India blamed on Pakistan. Since then, they have met in tournaments, including the 2011 World Cup semifinals at the northern Indian city of Mohali. India beat Pakistan then, and went on to win the World Cup.
Whatmore said no matter what type of pitches they met in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Calcutta and New Delhi, he just hoped they were conducive to good matches.
"We've got five different venues, the pitches at those venues, I think, are slightly different," he said. "Inherently you have certain venues that will play in a certain way ... both sides have decent players of all conditions. But, you know, the conditions in India are fairly well known to our boys and it will be a good contest."
Whatmore was appointed coach in March and soon after the former Australia Test batsman guided Pakistan to victory against India in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. India got the better of Pakistan in the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
"This will be the first time we'll play more than two or three times in a small series, it's an honor to be part of that," he said. "It will be an experience."
Whatmore also warned his team against reading too much into the arch-rivals' struggle in the ongoing home Test series against England.
"We should not be complacent at all because of India's recent form against England. The fact is that the English team is playing professional and well at the moment and India have a big challenge to square the series," Whatmore told reporters on the first day of a week-long conditioning camp set up in Lahore for the tour to India from December 22.
India are currently fighting to save the series in the fourth and final Test after conceding a 2-1 lead to England.
"But I wouldn't read too much into it because the results of one Test series doesn't necessarily mean that India is a weak side as we all know how good they have been over many years," he said.
The former Australian Test player also felt that off-spinner Saeed Ajmal would continue to be Pakistan's trump card even in the coming T20 and ODI series against India.
"Obviously we will select our playing eleven and bowling attack after seeing the conditions on the particular day of the match. But feel we've enough boys in the group to satisfy the requirements of any conditions," he said.