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Injury jinx strikes Windies

NEW DELHI, February 18- With a day to go before India kick off the World Cup against Bangladesh, former champions West Indies on Friday became the latest side to be struck by the injury curse affecting the marathon tournament.

Exciting opener Adrian Barath and wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh were ruled out, bringing to 10 the number of players forced to withdraw ahead of the 49-match sporting showpiece — tipped to be the most open for years.

With the much-anticipated opener taking place in Dhaka on Saturday, there is just one more practice match scheduled — a potentially feisty clash between Pakistan and England in the Bangladesh capital on Friday.

But two-times winners the West Indies have been forced to rethink their plans with less than a week to go before their opening match against South Africa in New Delhi.

"Medical specialists have determined that in both cases the players will not be able to resume training for two to three weeks," the West Indies Cricket Board said in a press release, referring to Barath and Baugh.

Kirk Edwards, an uncapped batsman from Barbados, and Antigua wicketkeeper Devon Thomas were named as replacements, subject to approval by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

So far the ICC has approved eight replacement players for teams in the World Cup.

As teams make their final preparations, Pakistan face England in the last warm-up match in Dhaka for the first time since the ‘spot-fixing’ scandal in 2010 that rocked cricket and led to bans for three Pakistan players.

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England paceman Stuart Broad said the teams had been keeping their distance from each other.

"We’ve not seen a huge amount of them in the hotel — we’ve not been going out for dinner with them particularly," Broad told reporters on Thursday.

"Obviously it was a tough summer for us last year, all England players will say the same."

Pakistan are sweating over the form and fitness of bowling spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, who is part of a pace attack already depleted by the absence of banned duo Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif.

Meanwhile the controversy over plans to restrict the next World Cup to 10 teams again reared its head, with the ICC saying minnows were better suited to the Twenty20 format.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said the World Twenty20 would be increased to 16 teams instead of 12, while the 50-over World Cup would be trimmed to 10 from the current 14.

"We have felt in the past few years that Twenty20 is the best format to develop the game worldwide and it provides a better environment for competition," Lorgat said.

"The 50-over format is more skill-based and suitable for the top teams."

Lorgat’s views are bound to further anger the minnows, who believe they are being muscled out in favour of the Test-playing nations.

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Cricket Kenya chief executive Tom Sears said on Thursday the ICC would not be acting in the interests of the game if the smaller teams were locked out of the next World Cup.

Kenya became the first non-Test playing team to reach the semi-finals in 2003, and Ireland produced their biggest upset over Pakistan in the 2007 tournament in the West Indies.

It was also confirmed on Friday that hosts India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will play their knockout matches at home if they get past the preliminary rounds.

But if two host countries draw each other, the team placed higher in the pre-tournament seeding will get preference, Lorgat said.

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