Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pakistan v/s West Indies 1st ODI Preview

Pakistan v West Indies, 1st ODI, Abu Dhabi

Match facts

November 12 - Start time 15.00 (1100 GMT)

Shoaib Akhtar has yet to play an ODI this year for fitness and disciplinary reasons

Big Picture

Offshore series - especially bilateral - in neutral venues have traditionally not been taken all that seriously. It may not be so in the case of three one-day internationals between Pakistan and West Indies in Abu Dhabi's swanky Sheikh Zayed Stadium. A cricket-starved Pakistan have had their share of political, financial and player-related woes and Shoaib Malik's side are in Abu Dhabi with a brand new coach and management team, hoping for an upturn in cricketing fortunes.

Pakistan have played only five ODIs against strong opposition in 2008 - four against India and one against Sri Lanka. Australia, South Africa and New Zealand refused to tour because of security concerns at various times over the year, leaving Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to pop over for five ODIs each. Pakistan duly whitewashed both, though disappointed during the Asia Cup with sterner opposition. When the Champions Trophy was shelved later in the year, and then when West Indies refused to tour, Pakistan had no option but to accede to Abu Dhabi as a venue.

In the midst of these worries came personnel fiascoes. Mohammad Asif was banned earlier for testing positive again for the banned substance nandrolone during the IPL; Shoaib Akhtar has been involved in legal battles with the Pakistan Cricket Board; Mohammad Yousuf defected to the unofficial ICL; Geoff Lawson was sacked as coach and to top it off, there have been persistent reports of unease between senior players and Malik.

For West Indies, the high of winning the lucrative Stanford 20/20 for 20 match against England would hopefully have come off for most in the squad. Their coach, John Dyson, thought the six-week camp ahead of the Twenty20 match "was an overkill" and the lack of preparations for the team as a whole unit might hurt them in Abu Dhabi.

Winning the Scotiabank tri-series in their previous one-day assignment, against Canada and Bermuda, might not have undone the humiliation at home in the ODI series against Australia where they were thrashed 0-5. West Indies will look at the ICC Cricketer of the Year, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and in-form Chris Gayle to lead from the front.

Form guide (last 5 ODIs, most recent last)

Pakistan WLLWW
West Indies LLWWW

Watch out for

Shoaib Akhtar has approached full match fitness and the management was impressed by his performances in the Pentangular Cup. David Dwyer, the team trainer, has also worked closely with Shoaib, who has played little cricket this year. And unlike a couple of other coaches, Intikhab Alam has no plans to ask him to reduce his run-up.

Xavier Marshall caught the eye during the home series against Australia earlier this year, and then blasted the most sixes in an ODI against Canada in August. Marshall's 12 sixes broke a 12-year-old record of 11 in an innings, set in 1996 by Sanath Jayasuriya and equalled six months later by Shahid Afridi. Opening the innings with Gayle, Marshall has the ability to really tee off.

Umar Gul has fully recovered from the rib injury he picked up at the Asia Cup in July, taking 6-39 in his only Pentangular Cup this season. With Asif nowhere near the scene, Gul will shoulder plenty of the fast-bowling responsibility.

Team news

Pakistan have to decide between two specialist openers or a makeshift pair. Intikhab wants specialists but Malik prefers Kamran Akmal, who has opened in 38 ODIs and scored all of his four centuries from there, to make room for another bowling option. The bowing pretty much picks itself, with Shoaib being paired with Sohail Tanvir, followed by Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar Anjum. Pakistan have plenty of spin options, but Shahid Afridi and Fawad Alam will get first dibs ahead of 31-year-old offspinner Saeed Ajmal.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Kamran Akmal (wk), 3 Younis Khan, 4 Shoaib Malik (capt), 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Fawad Alam, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Shoaib Akhtar, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Rao Iftikhar Anjum.

West Indies will, as always, rely on an explosive top order to kickstart the innings. Gayle warmed up the series with smashing half-century in the Stanford final against England, while Marshall and Ramnaresh Sarwan are quick scorers. The middle order, bar Chanderpaul, is thin. Shawn Findlay and Brendan Nash have played seven ODIs between them, while Carlton Baugh was only recently reinstated to the ODI side for the tri-series in Canada. West Indies will have to decide between adding a third pace bowler or including Dave Mohammed as spinning partner to slow left-armer Nikita Miller, the leading wicket-taker during the first-class season with 42 victims . Kemar Roach, a young right-arm fast bowler, may get the nod.

West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Xavier Marshall, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Shawn Findlay, 6 Brendan Nash, 7 Carlton Baugh (wk), 8 Daren Powell, 9 Nikita Miller, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Kemar Roach.

Pitch & conditions

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium has the reputation for being a batsman's ground, with the average runs per wicket being 29.18, scored at 5.04 an over. However, seamers and spinners have also found some extra help when the floodlights come on. It is warm in the day time, so most sides prefer having a bat.

- CricVille -
Sandesh Kumar
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