Pakistan favourites in mismatch
Match factsWednesday, September 23, 2009
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT)
Pakistan, a team with a dash of mercurial madness, are pitted against West Indies, who are fighting an identity crisis. On paper it's a mismatch: Weakened considerably by the ongoing imbroglio between the board and the main players, West Indies were swept aside by Bangladesh at home recently and few are giving them a chance in this tournament.
Both teams have a 20% success rate in ODIs held in South Africa against the top eight teams; this tournament presents an opportunity to change that statistic. Pakistan will look to ease themselves into the tournament with what should be, in theory, an easy outing. Their captain Younis Khan, who won't be featuring in tomorrow's encounter, has already raised the stakes by announcing that he wants to win the tournament in honour of Bob Woolmer, their former coach who died during the 2007 World Cup.
It won't be that easy, though. Pakistan haven't had the best of the years in ODIs, losing eight of the 13 games played; their batting has floundered repeatedly and they have been bowled out for less than 175 five times. It's a team in the rebuilding stage and instead of opting for an all-youth policy they have added a healthy bit of experience. They have been beefed up by the return of the ICL players in Mohammad Yousuf, Imran Nazir and the solid Naved-ul-Hasan.
If West Indies, derailed by controversy in the recent times, are desperately seeking some positive signs, they need only look at their history in this tournament. They have been runners-up twice and won it once so memorably in 2004. They lack even a single star but, freed of the weight of expectation, they can be a thorn in the flesh of the other fancied teams in their group.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies - LLLLW
Pakistan - WWLLL
Pakistan have an explosive talent in Mohammad Aamer, the left-arm fast bowler and a canny medium-pacer in Naved-ul-Hasan, along with a couple of good spinners in Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal. Their bowling can be expected to be consistent; it's their batting that needs to get rolling to push them ahead in this tournament.
Shoaib Malik, who hit a hundred at No. 3 in the warm-up game against Warriors, says he is willing to open the innings. He averages 37.35 as an opener, with two centuries and a fifty, and is likely to feature among the top three in the batting order. Though he has had a poor year, scoring just one half-century in 11 games with an average of 21.44, he has a very good record in South Africa, averaging 77.50 in five games with one half-century. Misbah-ul-Haq returns to the country where it had all started for him during the inaugural World Twenty20.
Mohammad Yousuf adds solidity to the middle-order and Mohammad Asif, though not slated to play tomorrow, will make his much-awaited return to international cricket at some point in the tournament.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Imran Nazir, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi (capt), 8 Naved-ul-Hasan, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Mohammad Aamer
Not much is expected of West Indies, nor have they done much recently to raise any expectations. Though weakened, they have some talent in Dale Richards, Devon Smith, and David Bernard in the batting department. Their bowling would be led by Kemar Roach and Darren Sammy, with Nikita Miller providing the spin option.
West Indies (probable) 1 Dale Richards, 2 Andre Fletcher, 3 Devon Smith, 4 Travis Dowlin, 5 Floyd Reifer (capt), 6 Kieran Powell, 7 David Bernard, 8 Chadwick Walton (wk), 9 Darren Sammy, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Nikita Miller.
Watch out for...
Umar Gul has never been the poster boy in his career but, of late, he has shouldered the burden of being the strike bowler with his talent backed by maturity. He has a very good yorker and is likely to get some seam movement with the new ball. The return of Asif is likely to benefit Gul, who has always seemed a natural follower than a leader.
Dale Richards is one of the few players in history who have opened their Test debuts with a six. He is naturally aggressive and is pretty good against pace bowling, but still faces the criticism that he fails to convert his starts. This tournament presents a great opportunity to showcase his talent.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have played ODIs against only Sri Lanka and Australia this year, losing eight of the 13 games.
- Mohammad Yousuf is the second-highest scorer after Saeed Anwar for Pakistan in Champions Trophy history, scoring 284 runs at 47.33, but averaging only 31.81 in ODIs played in South Africa.
- Darren Sammy is the only player in the current West Indies team who has played in a Champions Trophy game before - he didn't bat but picked up one wicket from six overs.
"I want the people in the Caribbean to know that this is a West Indies team that is dedicated to the West Indies cricket. This is not a second-string team,."
Floyd Reifer tries to garner some support back home, where the team has been labeled as 'scabs' in some quarters.
"I know from experience that the batting is the most important thing while playing in South Africa. If our batting clicks we can win the competition. "
Shoaib Malik pinpoints the area where his team needs to get more consistent.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo