Talented, inconsistent, mercurial — the trio of traits that define Pakistan are also an apt definition of their today’s opponents, the West Indies.
Two teams cut from the same psychological cloth clash in their opening fixture of the 2019 World Cup.
If Pakistan, on their day, can blow anyone out of the water, so can the Windies; if Pakistan can inexplicably fold at the first sign of trouble, so can the Windies; if Pakistan can do whatever you didn’t expect them to do, so can the Windies.
Most bookmakers can’t separate them and have this as a pick ’em scenario, which is rather surprising considering Pakistan have lost all of their last 10 ODIs and the Windies are coming off of a devastating win over New Zealand.
Perhaps, the oddsmakers appear to be paying Pakistan the respect for being the winners of the last major ODI event: the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Or perhaps, the series drubbings against Australia and England do not tell the whole story. Pakistan had rested a number of regulars against the Aussies and were close to winning multiple matches in the series. Against the English, their batting did not fail once, which for them is astonishing in a five-match series on foreign soil.
But neither whitewash had dampened the spirit among Pakistani fans as much as the loss to Afghanistan in the warm-up game did. There, the middle-to-lower-order batters were to be blamed. Had they at the very least played their full overs, the extra 15-20 runs could have saved them in the run chase.
On the other hand, the Calypso Kings had smashed the Kiwis for 421 runs in their warm-up encounter. It was not a one-man show either as nine of their batters had contributed in double figures, which shows the depth of their line-up.
The two sides have faced each 133 times in ODIs, of which West Indies have won 70 and Pakistan 60, with three ending in ties. In World Cups, too, the Caribbean side has the edge, boasting seven victories to Pakistan’s three.
The last time these two met in an ODI series in 2017, Pakistan won 2-1, including the final match of the series. Their last World Cup meeting came in 2015 when the Windies had thrashed Pakistan by 150 runs.
Keys to victory
If Pakistan have to win, they must rely on their spinners against a side that notoriously struggles against turn.
For the Windies to win, they must not let Babar Azam pile up runs. The 24-year-old averages a staggering 102.80 against the Windies and is certainly the danger man.
Pakistan: 1 Imam ul Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman 3 Babar Azam, 4 Haris Sohail 5 Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt, wk), 6 Mohammad Hafeez 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali 11 Wahab Riaz
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle 2 Evin Lewis 3 Shai Hope (wk) 4 Shimron Hetmyer 5 Darren Bravo 6 Jason Holder (capt) 7 Andre Russell 8 Ashley Nurse 9 Kemar Roach 10 Sheldon Cottrell 11 Oshane Thomas
Pakistan are not as bad as their recent record suggests, and the Windies are not as good as their thrashing of New Zealand indicates. It should be a close encounter but one Pakistan would edge