DHABI (AFP) - Pakistan hope they can shake off rustiness and put off-field problems behind them as they gear up for a one-day series against the West Indies starting here on Wednesday.
Shoaib Malik's side is woefully short of match practice, having played just five one-dayers against strong opposition this year - four against India and one against Sri Lanka.
Pakistan were forced to host minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for one-dayers after Australia, South Africa and New Zealand refused to tour the country due to security fears.
And the chance to test themselves against the world's best in September's Champions Trophy in Pakistan was denied as the tournament was postponed for the same reasons.
The refusal of the West Indies to play in Pakistan, also over security fears, forced the choice of the neutral venue of Abu Dhabi for the three-match series.
Cricket-starved Pakistan have also faced off-field problems, which led to the sacking of their Australian coach Geoff Lawson after just 13 months in the job. He was replaced last month by Intikhab Alam, a former Pakistan captain.
And Pakistan's woes mounted when they lost prolific batsman Mohammad Yousuf, who was banned for joining the rebel Indian Cricket League earlier this month. He was initially named in the 15-member squad for this series.Alam though is not perturbed over the lack of match practice."We may have played less cricket but I don't believe in such negatives. This is a very important series for us because after this we have India touring us and for that we need better rhythm," said Alam.
Pakistan host India for three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 match early next year.
Pakistan also had to leave out opener Nasir Namshed, who pulled out hours before the team's departure due to lack of fitness. He was replaced by Khurrum Manzoor.
In contrast, a collection of West Indies players recently hit the jackpot when they thrashed the England Superstars in the Stanford Twenty20 finale in Antigua, earning millions of dollars in the process.
West Indies coach John Dyson said he hoped the series against Pakistan would help the team's preparations for next month's tour of New Zealand.
"Newcomers Brendan Nash, Leon Johnson and Shawn Findlay showed they are ready to perform against Pakistan," he said.
Pakistan will be looking for an impressive performance from star paceman Shoaib Akhtar, yet to play a one-day international this year for fitness and disciplinary reasons.
Akhtar, with 219 wickets in 138 one-dayers, returned to the squad in August for a Twenty20 tournament in Canada.
"Akhtar has overcome his problems and we hope he delivers for the team," said Alam.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (capt), Salman Butt, Khurrum Manzoor, Khalid Latif, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umer Gul, Rao Iftikhar, Abdur Rauf, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanveer, Fawad Alam
West Indies: Chris Gayle (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lionel Baker, Carlton Baugh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Shawn Findlay, Leon Johnson, Xavier Marshall, Nikita Miller, Dave Mohammed, Brendan Nash, Daren Powell, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor.
Umpires: Steve Davis (AUS), Mark Benson (ENG)
ICC match referee: Mike Procter (RSA)