Dwayne Bravo and Samuel Badree will test the lackluster batting line-up of Pakistan © AFP
Dwayne Bravo and Samuel Badree will test the lackluster batting line-up of Pakistan © AFP

Pakistan and West Indies will lock horns for the first Twenty20 (T20I) of the three-T20I series with the first match being played at Abu Dhabi, Dubai. Both the teams will be itching to make a good start which will be followed by three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and a three-Test series. Pakistan and West Indies last appearance was in the shortest format which was three to four weeks back. The long break will pose as a challenge but being two strong T20I sides, Pakistan and West Indies will be confident taking on the field.

After an intense Test series against England, Pakistan lost the plot completely in the ODI series 1-4. Under the leadership of wicketkeeper-batsman, Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan came back in the one-off T20I to win by nine wickets. It was a convincing performance by the Men in Green as they outplayed England in all departments. Coming back to the present series where the hosts will be up against two times ICC World Twenty20 (WT20I) winners West Indies in their own territory, Pakistan will like another comprehensive show.

Be it at home, neutral venues or overseas, playing against a tough and star studded side like West Indies always keeps the opponents on their toes. Pakistan will feel they have a certain edge as West Indies have not turned up ever in Abu Dhabi for a T20I but will not take them lightly. Pakistan’s bowlers were exceptional in their last game in England (i.e. one-off T20I) and will like to carry on in the same stead against a team who believes in demolishing any bowling attack from ball one. ALSO READ: Sarfraz expects PAK to be at their best in T20Is vs WI

Pakistani bowlers versus West Indies’ power hitters:

It is not a hidden fact that Pakistan depend on their bowlers to win them matches and it will be a grueling contest when they will take on West Indies’ power hitters. There is no such player in the West Indies camp who is afraid of going after the opposition and the hosts will be wary of it.  The focus from Pakistan will be on Sohail Tanvir, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Aamer and Wahab Riaz.

In his comeback trail, Tanvir did not take up any wicket and was a tad bit expensive. He will like to wreak havoc of West Indies’ famed batting line-up. Another senior pro, Riaz, had a torrid time in England but signed off well with 4-0-18-3. Riaz will feel confident bowling in known conditions and like to rattle the West Indians with his swing and pace. With the dust finally settling on Aamer’s much talked about comeback in international cricket after serving his punishment for the spot-fixing saga, Aamer will take on the field for the first time in Pakistan’s adopted home venue.

Apart from these three frontline seamers, there are a few new names that have been included in the squad. Saad Nasim, all-rounder, along with Rumman Raees, left-arm orthodox fast bowler, will be eager to make a mark but will have to wait more for featuring in the Playing XI. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Nawaz are two part time spinners who may also be tried in case Sarfraz runs out of ideas to stop the rampage expected from West Indies batsmen.

There are plenty of swashbuckling batsmen in the West Indies squad. Johnson Charles, Dwayne Bravo, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Keiron Pollard and Marlon Samuels are some renounced big hitters who will be on target by the hosts. Two matches old, Evin Lewis will also have a hand to play as he announced his arrival in the shortest format with a fluent and aggressive 100 off 76 balls against India in the short T20I series played in United States of America (USA). ALSO READ: WICB replace Walsh with Sebastien in selection panel

The fate of the match will pretty much be decided if Pakistan can control West Indies’ batting line-up. The pitch may have a role for the spinners later on in the game. This will be beneficial for West Indies having the likes of Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine. The conditions will be a little similar to that in the Caribbean which evens the home advantage Pakistan will have.

Another aspect is that there will be humidity too which may bring in the dew factor. Lots of things will be in both team’s dugout before finalising the team. Talking about West Indies bowling attack, they did leak a lot of runs in the run-fest against India in the first T20I in USA. That was the only time their bowlers got a chance in the short series. Brathwaite will have a role to play in handling his bowlers, something which his predecessor Darren Sammy did brilliantly.

Bravo and Badree will be spearheading their attack who possess a lot of variations and are clever in mixing it up with the ball. Narine was surprisingly expensive in the match against India but will like to start fresh. West Indies are probably a seamer short and have picked up three in the form of Jerome Taylor and inexperienced pair of Rovman Powell and Kesrick Williams. ALSO READ: Samuel Badree: Pakistan very dangerous team

West Indies’ clever bowling and acrobatic fielding will test hosts: West Indies will like to inflict more pain on Pakistan’s inconsistent batting line-up. Sharjeel Khan played some blinders in his side’s tour of Europe but is far from consistency. Khalid Latif, Babar Azam and Nawaz are talented cricketers and will be expected to play well against a clever bowling attack. Malik and Sarfraz will again have to take up maximum responsibilities with the willow.

The decisive factor will be how Pakistan fares in the middle-overs. This will pretty much decide the outcome of the match. In fielding department, West Indies are more acrobatic and livewire on the field and Pakistan will have to tighten their socks. Overall, Pakistan are far from being a solid team in ODIs but have enjoyed good success in the most unpredictable and shortest format of the game. In head-to-head encounters, both teams are tied at 2-2 which makes the contest even more riveting.

There is not much to separate both the teams with the conditions in offer and seeing the uncertain nature of T20Is. If Pakistan have the experience of playing a lot in UAE, West Indies have players who participate in various leagues across the globe and know how to play the blink-and-a-miss format. It is hard to pick a favourite but West Indies will test the hosts in all quarters.

Squads:

Pakistan: Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Babar Azam, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Nawaz, Shoaib Malik, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Aamer, Hasan Ali, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed(c & wk), Rumman Raees, Saad Nasim

West Indies: Carlos Brathwaite(c), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles (wk), Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Kesrick Williams, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)