West Indies will come into this T20I series hurting from how their title defence went at the T20 World Cup a month ago. They'll have more than just hurt to deal with, given the positive Covid-19 tests for Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers, which have ruled the trio out of all three T20Is.
While West Indies are dealing with that, Pakistan will come back to a format in which they might feel they ought to be world champions in. They had trampled through the group stages in the World Cup and had the semi-final all but sewn up against Australia, when Matthew Wade struck. A different 10 minutes and it might have well been Babar Azam with his hands on the trophy instead of Aaron Finch. Their 3-0 sweep of Bangladesh in Bangladesh merely reinforced the point, winning handily in a country and against an opponent where the two finalists - Australia and New Zealand - had lost comprehensively.
In all this, the larger picture is that there is international cricket happening in Pakistan for the first time since New Zealand pulled out, and then England followed suit, just about two months back. West Indies have already arrived, and the first T20I looks set to go ahead despite the positive Covid-19 tests. If any team had half a mind to pull out, surely a slew of positive tests provides a readymade reason, but that West Indies are still in Karachi and preparing to play, means cricket will happen, barring the exceptionally unforeseen.
Pakistan WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LLWLL
In the spotlight
He was part of the travelling reserves in West Indies' T20 World Cup squad until Fabian Allen's injury catapulted him into the main party, and Akeal Hosein has only grown since then. He's the complete package for T20s, able to bowl restrictively through different innings phases, handy with the bat lower down the order, and an athletic livewire in the field. Hosein is likely to be a sure starter in the XI, and with greater responsibility in a depleted squad. If he can step up to it, West Indies could have themselves another great T20 prospect.
The Babar Azam question will never really go away from Pakistan. It's about whether the team is best served by Babar playing within himself and looking to bat long because the batting can be brittle, or whether it would be better that a batter with the kind of range Babar has should give it a full airing, and get the team off to dominant starts. Even at the cost of falling early more often. So far, Babar has largely preferred the first method. There are legitimate concerns about whether Pakistan's batting can withstand early departures for Babar in the quest for more dominance. But until it is tried for a decent run, we'll never know. Against an already depleted West Indies further hit by Covid-19, might be the best time to try out a more aggressive approach up top.
West Indies have got plenty of exciting new talent to call on, despite missing Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Shimron Hetmyer and Fabian Allen. There's the trio of Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith and Dominic Drakes - all fast-bowling allrounders. Each can hit the speed gun as well as the white ball to considerable distances, and all three could be in action in the first T20I.
West Indies XI (possible): 1 Brandon King, 2 Shai Hope, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Nicholas Pooran (capt, wk), 5 Rovman Powell, 6 Romario Shepherd, 7 Odean Smith, 8 Dominic Drakes, 9 Akeal Hosein, 10 Hayden Walsh Jr, 11 Oshane Thomas
Pakistan rotated their players in the Bangladesh T20Is, rightly figuring that some needed a bit of a rest after the T20 World Cup and with a Test series against Bangladesh to follow. They're back at full strength now, apart from leaving out Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali.
Pakistan XI (possible): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Shadab Khan (vice-capt), 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Haris Rauf, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Shahnawaz Dahani/Mohammad Wasim
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at the National Stadium is expected to be full of runs, with the weather forecast to be pleasant and clear. The match is starting at 6.00pm local time, which reduces any effect dew might have.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan have won all four T20Is they've played at this venue, although the first game was back in 2008 and the other three came in 2018 - and were against West Indies.
"The West Indies series at home was very much important, specially after two series were cancelled which was unfortunate. There was sense of uncertainty about whether teams will tour Pakistan ever again, but I want to appreciate West Indies for coming and supporting Pakistan. People here are always waiting for home cricket and they are very excited about it." - Babar Azam.