Saturday, February 21, 2015

Pakistan v West Indies Preview, Match 10 at Christchurch

Welcome to the Garden City, the banner screams when you walk out of the airport in Christchurch. Welcome to Heartbreak Central, it may well have read, for the Pakistan and West Indies team, who came to the city to play what should be one of the more tense matches of the first round of the ICC World Cup 2015.

Pakistan had tasted its first heartache, losing for the sixth time in World Cups to old enemy India at the Adelaide Oval. The West Indies should be feeling heartburn, shaded by Ireland at the Saxton Oval. These losses mean that Pakistan come into Saturday’s match at the bottom of Pool B, and West Indies one spot above. The team that loses at the Hagley Oval on Saturday (February 21) will find itself teetering at the edge of elimination, even though there are still plenty of games to be played.

“I think we need to win the next game. That's the only way to stay in the tournament," admitted Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain.

Another similarity between these two teams is that they are missing key players. The West Indies will miss Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, as well as Sunil Narine.

Narine would have started every game in this tournament, irrespective of the conditions. In some good news though, Suleiman Benn, who was struggling with back spasms and therefore missed that encounter with Ireland, is fit for selection for the Pakistan game, and Nikita Miller, overlooked earlier, is also in the mix. Darren Sammy too has been cleared to play after being hampered by a back strain in the previous game.

Pakistan is missing Saeed Ajmal, but fortunately for it, the fast bowlers, led by the towering Mohammed Irfan and backed up by the strong Wahab Riaz, have shown signs of excellent form.

How either of these teams can go into the match with any kind of positivity is an issue the coaches and support staff must address. Clearly there is no point brooding about the past, but since Pakistan has won only one of its last seven ODIs while the West Indies has managed two wins from the last 13, the players will need to pick themselves up.

"We can't let our defeats get us down. Obviously we lost a game against Ireland. It was a tough loss, but if we get ourselves down, it's hard to pick ourselves up so we are trying to keep the mood going," said Jason Holder, the West Indies captain. “What is clear for us is if we execute our plans and we carry out what we want to do we know we can be very successful so it's just about consistency.”

This should be a match in which players from both teams would try to go out there and express themselves to the fullest, to try and break out of a losing cycle by embracing the possibility of better times to come. Easier said than done, of course, but both teams will be hoping to win, going into the game feeling they just cannot afford to lose.

Teams (from):

West Indies (likely): Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder (capt), Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn.

Pakistan (likely): Ahmed Shehzad, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Sohail Khan, Mohammad Irfan.

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