By Ravi Madholall
Both West Indies and Pakistan would be anxious to up their points ranking and ultimately seek International Cricket Council (ICC) 50-over World Cup Qualification to be played in England 2019.
They are set to confront each other in a three-match one-day series commencing on Friday at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence, and with that in mind, the collision is expected to be riveting.
West Indies, who suffered a 3-1 drubbing in the preceding T20 series that concluded last Sunday at the Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad and Tobago, will obviously be under immense pressure while some of their “big guns” are absent due to the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).
Pakistan, who would have dominated proceedings too when the two teams featured in a limited-over series last year in Dubai, have got many reasons to be confident of making another impression against the hosts.
Currently ranked number 8, Pakistan may be the favorites ahead of their opponents who continued to languish at number 9.
With the cut-off time for the World Cup Qualification slated for September 30, the Caribbean boys have got to play their “A” game in order to proceed to the ICC mega event. West Indies having already missed out on the champions trophy, may face severe criticism if they going to vie for World Cup spot in the Qualifiers billed for mid next year.
With a plethora of their senior players have shown no commitment for West Indies’ cricket and currently plying their trade at the annual IPL tournament, West Indies could still be an ambitious side aiming for the World Cup destination.
The side will be led by seamer and Barbados Jason Holder, who returns to the leadership role after T20 skipper Carlos Brathwaite axed and is in India too.
Brathwaite, the dangerous Chris Gayle, the flamboyant Kieron Pollard among others T20 specialists that regularly represent West Indies prefer to be in India.
Visiting team captain Sarfraz Ahmed continues to be very impressive with his astute captaincy and should be optimistic of some formidable performances again. He can count heavily on seasoned batsmen like Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and himself to be impactful in the batting department while pacers Wahab Riaz, the versatile Hasan Ali and Mohammad Amir can control things with their pace.
West Indies have displayed inconsistency in this abbreviated version but is capable of churning out winning performances particularly on home soil.
The pitch is expected to be lively despite the common speculation that the track is typically known to be docile. Having said that and seen some humongous sixes in the T20 series, West Indies batting have enough potency to fire in all cylinders.
Opener Evin Lewis is one to be watched after his scintillating 91 in a T20 match and should be inspired to be a supporting cast while the likes of Kieron Powell, Chadwick Walton, Jonathan Carter, Shai Hope and Jason Mohammed are equally talented to be big scorers.
Fast-bowler Shannon Gabriel back in the fray after missing out on few occasions owing to injuries would certainly spearhead the bowling attack. He can get the necessary assistance from Holder, young and exciting Alzarii Joseph while spinners Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo can be a solid combination as well.
Meanwhile, both skippers have expressed strong confidence of winning the series and once they stick to their game plans, it shouldn’t be anything difficult to be on the winning side, according to them at a Press Conference on Thursday at the match venue. The two other matches are fixed for Sunday and Tuesday in Guyana as well.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Kamran Akmal, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed, (Capt. & wk), 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Wahab Riaz.
West Indies (possible): 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Chadwick Walton (wk), 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Jason Mohammad, 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Jason Holder (Capt.), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Shannon Gabriel.