Quarter-final Preview: Pakistan favourites against West Indies

Kemar Roach of West Indies celebrates with team mate Devon Thomas after taking the wicket of Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh during the 2011 ICC World Cup.

By Suneer Chowdhary

Mirpur: Mar 23, 2011

If someone were to predict at the beginning of the year that Pakistan would end up topping their group in the World Cup 2011, he would probably run the risk of being scoffed at. A day before the quarter-finals that Pakistan play against West Indies, the pressure is more on the Asian side solely because they have not only topped the group but have also been one of the better sides in the competitions. A loss for Pakistan could assume fiasco-like if not catastrophic proportions.

Barring the win against Bangladesh, and it was one that the West Indies should be proud of, West Indies have yet to win an ODI against a top side in almost two years. That is a detestable record that they have failed to shrug off in this tournament as well, losing to South Africa, England and India.

For one, West Indies will look to have a full-strength side, shorn of any injury problems. Kemar Roach had a fever, Chris Gayle had had a muscle strain while Kieron Pollard dislocated his finger during the last match.

And the aforementioned are no ordinary players; Roach is one of the rare breed left who can bowl opponents out with pace, Gayle is easily the most experienced and dangerous batsman at the top for the side while Pollard can not only change the shape of the ball with his massive hitting but also relieve the pressure with his bowling.

In short, West Indies will need all the three to regain their fitness to even have a chance to compete, let alone win.

In which case, there is a Ravi Rampaul conundrum that needs to be solved in case Roach gets fit. Rampaul s exclusion from the very start of the tournament was a surprise and the five-wicket haul against the batting-heavy Indian team proved just that. Now, once Roach comes back, it would be blasphemy to get Rampaul out after the superlative game he had had and apart from that, the West Indian think-tank does not have too many options. Devendra Bishoo could miss out.

Pakistan should be happy to go in with exactly the same line-up that beat Australia in the Colombo game. That means Asad Shafiq will get his third game of the tournament and injuries aside, Ahmed Shahzad should remain out.

While making changes, especially to a winning combination, before a knock-out game comes with its own statutory warnings, the Pakistani side may be tempted to drop a fast bowler and get in a third spinner in Saeed Ajmal. West Indies are not known to play the slow bowlers too well and with Ajmal having not played too much cricket in the tournament, he could prove to be a handful with his variations.

Despite the problems that dew has caused at this venue in the past, both teams will probably look to bat first in this pressure game. In fact, the West Indian captain Darren Sammy had played down the threat of the dew by providing a simple solution wipe the ball and move on. Cannot see either team wanting to chase a target under lights.

In the previous World Cup, Ireland may have dumped Pakistan out of the tournament but the rut had been started when West Indies defeated them in the first game. A revenge could well be on the minds, if not on the cards.


Pakistan (Probable): Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi (c), Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar/Wahab Riaz.

West Indies (Probable): Chris Gayle, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard, Devon Thomas (wk), Darren Sammy (c), Andre Russell, Suleimann Benn, Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul/Devendra Bishoo.

Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Billy Bowden (New Zealand)

Time: 14.30 local (08.30 GMT)

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here: @suneerchowdhary)

Pictures Getty Images