Weary West Indies bank on T20 form
Match factsSaturday, July 27, 2013
Start time 1400 local (1800 GMT)
Big PictureIn what has been a disappointing home season for West Indies, with the twin failures in the tri-series and a 3-1 defeat in the one-day series to Pakistan, the hosts have a chance to salvage pride in a format that hasn't let them down in recent months - Twenty20. Since winning the World T20 in Sri Lanka last year, West Indies have not dropped a single game, and with history on their side, nothing less than a 2-0 triumph will be enough to bring some cheer to their fans as the islands prepare for a brace of T20s in the form of the Caribbean Premier League, which gets underway two days after the two back-to-back games against Pakistan.
Save for series victories against unfancied Zimbabwe at home, West Indies have been a let down against better opposition, starting from the Champions Trophy. The expectations were raised after winning a world title last year and winning six consecutive Tests (albeit against the weaker sides). Fatigue was one of the factors attributed to their slump, with several key batsmen like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo taking active part in the IPL and other leagues, without much rest between series. It has shown in the performances in at least two of the three players and there is very little time to turn the corner. It was a forgettable season for another reason: the decision to sacrifice Tests for more one-dayers for monetary reasons and accommodating the CPL is unpalatable for the cricket purist. It appears that T20s are the flavour of the season, starting Saturday.
Not too long ago, Pakistan had endured a similar slump, bowing out of the Champions Trophy without a win. Commonsense prevailed when the selectors chose not to make the captain the scapegoat and instead recalled impact players like Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal, who made vital contributions in the one-dayers. The batsmen had a lot to answer for after the debacle in England and in testing batting conditions in the West Indies, there was an improvement, at least in the last three games. Misbah-ul-Haq, much ridiculed for his conservative approach to batting which sometimes drastically slows down the innings, was the pivot around which the batting revolved. His one-day numbers in 2013 speak for themselves, but he is not around for the T20s. Can Pakistan be just as effective without him?
Form guideWest Indies WWWWW (most recent first, last five completed matches)
In the spotlightIt has been a trying few months for Dwayne Bravo, who hasn't had the best start to full-time captaincy, though he is in charge only for one-dayers. His batting in the final overs has been effective, contributing two quick 40s in recent matches, but the same can't be said about his bowling at the death. West Indies have been guilty of leaking too many and in this case the captain has been just as bad, if not worse, than the rest. Still, it didn't deter Bravo from bringing himself on, as West Indies looked for dot balls and wickets in the last two one-dayers. Now under Darren Sammy's leadership, it remains to be seen if he will bowl Bravo out early or risk him in the slog overs.
Umar Akmal belongs to the breed of talented cricketers who infuriate more than delight. Recalled for this tour, playing as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Akmal's batting form has been encouraging. His unbeaten 40 in the third one-dayer provided the innings a boost after Misbah's stonewalling; his unbeaten 29 in the fourth helped Pakistan sail home in a truncated chase and his 28-ball 37 helped Pakistan edge closer in the final game, though he couldn't finish it off. Nevertheless, it was a refreshing comeback.
Team newsChris Gayle and Marlon Samuels missed West Indies' last T20 series, against Zimbabwe, but both should take their places here. West Indies have the option of playing two spinners, with Samuel Badree in the squad.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles (wk), 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Lendl Simmons, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Tino Best, 11 Shannon Gabriel/Samuel Badree
For Pakistan, Sohail Tanvir, Zulfiqar Babar and Hammad Azam have flown in for the T20s.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 4 Umar Akmal (wk), 5 Haris Sohail/ Hammad Azam, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Sohail Tanvir, 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Junaid Khan, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Stats and trivia
- St Vincent will be hosting its first ever T20 international
- Remarkably, Pakistan and West Indies have played only one T20 against each other overall. West Indies won that encounter two years ago
Quotes"We are World T20 champions; this is the format I think we are best at and we have to show why at St Vincent."
Darren Sammy, talks up West Indies' chances
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo