Pakistan and West Indies are actually two peas in one pod. Both the teams can be highly entertaining and unbeatable on their day but can be highly frustrating otherwise to watch for their respective fans. West Indies have had mixed results coming into the World Cup, they lost the tri-series finals to Bangladesh recently but again they were missing lots of their first choice players. Pakistan on the other hand have had a horror run over the last 6 months losing 10 games in a row coming into the tournament and also losing their only warm-up game to Afghanistan last week.
The biggest positive for Pakistan has been their batting. Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam have been in great form and as a batting unit they crossed 300+ in 3 of their 4 games against England earlier this month. Their bowling though is a different story. Pakistan have announced their 12 for the game against West Indies already and when we look at their line-up, the bowling does not inspire any confidence. Mohammad Amir who was initially dropped from the provisional squad and re inducted into the World Cup squad has been struggling for wickets over the last 18 months. He averages 92.6 in 15 games with just 5 wickets to his name. Hasan Ali who was Pakistan’s star in their Champions Trophy 2017 campaign has taken 24 wickets at an average of 42.49. Wahab Riaz who was Pakistan’s stand out performer in their only warm up against Afghanistan hasn’t played any ODI since the first Champions Trophy game for Pakistan in 2017.
Shadab Khan their lone specialist spinner is their best bet against West Indies as he has a decent record over that time and averages 29.28 with 28 wickets. Pakistan’s bowling has been struggling over the last 18 months and their best bowler over that time Shaheen Shah Afridi is sitting out this game. West Indies on the other had are flying high with confidence after their amazing win against New Zealand in the practice game early this week. Their batting seems extremely dangerous and with Chris Gayle back at the top, they look a formidable unit. The addition of Andre Russell in the middle order also gives them the edge as he can really hit the long ball and also bowl really quick when needed.
Shai Hope has been in brilliant form with the bat and with Darren Bravo at number 4, they have a very good top 4. The bowling attack can blow hot or cold similar to their batting but with Oshane Thomas providing the X-Factor, they can really test the Pakistan batting if they get it right. The major weakness for West Indies will be their spin option. Even though Ashley Nurse is a decent spinner, he isn’t someone who the opposition will be worried too much about.
Head to Head:
In terms of head to head in the World Cups, West Indies are way ahead of Pakistan. They are 7-3 in all time World Cup encounters. They also lead Pakistan 70-60 in the overall record. As we know we cannot make too much out of this stats as West Indies dominated world cricket in 70’s and 80’s and most of the stats reflects that domination.
Shadab Khan (Pakistan) – He has been Pakistan’s best bowler over the last 18 months. Even though he hasn’t done much with the bat, his bowling where he has picked up 28 wickets will be crucial for Pakistan in this world cup. Despite having the left-arm spin of Imad Wasim, Shadab is possibly their only specialist spinner in the 12. Considering West Indies’s struggles against good spin bowling, he will form the most important part of their strategy.
Babar Azam (Pakistan) – Even though Pakistan has 2 players at the top averaging 50, Babar Azam is their best bat in this format. With 9 hundreds in 64 games, he is their main stay in batting. The other Pakistan batters would need to bat around him and the onus will be on Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed to guide this young team through this tournament.
Shai Hope (West Indies) – Hope is probably the best West Indies batter in the ODI format in a long time. He averages over 50 in this format and has done incredibly well over the last 18 months. He is the calm in otherwise explosive batting line up. He along with Darren Bravo will be crucial for West Indies campaign in this tournament.
Jason Holder (West Indies) – The West Indies captain is the talisman around which the team has recently had a resurgence. He bats well and bowls well but his leadership skills is what which will be important managing a mercurial bunch of cricketers. He has been brilliant doing that over the last couple of years and he would like to continue the same in this tournament.
What they said?
“One thing I like coming into this tournament is that every player is in a good frame of mind,” Holder said. “Everybody is playing with a smile on their face, and that’s how we play our best cricket. We’re fearless, we enjoy what we’re doing and we enjoy one another’s company. I can safely say within the group we’ve got that. We’ve got the energy going into this tournament that we would want to have
“It’s good to be unpredictable. All teams are scared of Pakistan because on our day we are dangerous. It’s good that we’re unpredictable before the World Cup” Safaraz Ahmed said in a presser ahead of their opening encounter against West Indies
Probable XI (Pakistan) – Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK & C), Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali
Probable XI (West Indies) – Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (Wkt), Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (C), Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Ashley Nurse.
I wouldn’t want to be a betting man tonight for this game against this two sides. This game probably is one of the most difficult one to predict. Probably couple years ago the obvious choice would have been Pakistan but things have changed a lot. Both teams will start on an even keel and the team who bowls well and fields well will emerge victories. Knowing how unpredictable these two teams are, it is hard to say who that will be.