Confident West Indies confront the Pakistan challenge

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West Indies’ extended warm-up for the T20 World Cup continues apace, with Pakistan the latest side the defending champions will host ahead of the global event later this year.

While there might be legitimate concern around how relevant T20 cricket in the Caribbean is to a T20 World Cup on the other side of the planet in the UAE, you can’t really argue West Indies will go into it undercooked.

A slightly below-par series in Grenada saw South Africa give the home side a bloody nose and walk away with the trophy, but Nicholas Pooran‘s men bounced back strongly in St Lucia to hammer Australia 4-1 and get themselves back on track.

Part of the excitement around West Indies stems from the return of most of their key players that have, for one reason or another, been unavailable to them for the large parts of the previous decade.

With Dwayne BravoChris GayleAndre Russell and Kieron Pollard all back in the maroon, West Indies are perhaps the most intimidating side on paper, and will be the most closely watched.

Certainly more so than Pakistan, who fly to Barbados off the back of a 2-1 series reverse in England. It’s a measure of how much expectations have been managed in Pakistan that that result was viewed as something of an over-performance, so heavily unfancied was Babar Azam‘s side against England.

Things don’t get much easier, though, even if Pakistan have a perfect series record against West Indies, because the side they face bears little resemblance, both in personnel and intensity, to the one they beat on these shores in 2017.

Still, that positive head-to-head means Pakistan are unlikely to fear the hosts going into this Covid-shortened series.

Three T20Is in England ensure they don’t come in rusty against a well-oiled West Indian machine, and with the CPL among the more popular overseas T20I competitions for Pakistan players, this land carries little of the unfamiliarity it might have done in previous years.

These two sides are very different from each other, both in style and T20 philosophy, and that contrast should make for an absorbing four games over the next week.

Team news

Kieron Pollard is slated to captain West Indies, but did not play the T20Is against Australia, with Pooran standing in.

West Indies (possible): Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard (capt)/Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Hayden Walsh, Obed McCoy, Fidel Edwards.

Misbah-ul-Haq admitted after the England series Pakistan weren’t making much headway in working out how to resolve their middle-order issues. That, arguably, is what series like these are for, so expect some tinkering over the next few games.

Pakistan (possible): Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Babar Azam (capt), Fakhar Zaman, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Hafeez/Sharjeel Khan, Azam Khan, Shadab Khan/Usman Qadir, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hasnain, Shaheen Shah Afridi (ESPNcricinfo)

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