West Indies’ batting back under the microscope against lethal Pakistan unit
By Akeem Greene
West and Indies and Pakistan return to the ‘whites’ with two Tests in Jamaica, and the first ball is expected to bowl off at 11:00h today (Eastern Caribbean time), but the result already seems a foregone conclusion – a Pakistan victory.
Pessimistic for West Indies you would say!
But history and recurring problems with West Indies’ batting has already placed them on the back foot against a bowling attack with vast versatility.
From menacing and young left-arm and right-arm seamers to ‘web-spinning’ leg-spinners, the Pakistan bowling attack has it all.
In handy conditions for fast-bowling, South Africa’s seamers, and left-arm spinner, decimated West Indies in the two Tests earlier this year. The hosts’ highest total was 165 and just two batsmen got fifty or more.
On the eve of this Test, West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite said they were disappointed with their batting performance against South Africa in June, but their reflections and discussions have them mentally ready to battle the in-form tourists.
The preparation period was just over two weeks in Jamaica without Head Coach Phil Simmons, who was with the Twenty20 International team, and Brathwaite expressed confidence it was “ample time” and they are looking forward to doing a better job.
Despite Brathwaite’s optimism, the coach had expressed displeasure with the lack of work done by the Test players between the two series.
Pakistan have won their last two-Test series against West Indies (both in 2017), and they enter this series, with series wins over South Africa, the side that hammered West Indies in two Tests in June, and Zimbabwe.
West Indies have not defeated Pakistan at Sabina Park since 1977, with the teams having split four Test matches down the middle. Pakistan’s victories came in 2005 and 2017.
“It is Test cricket; it is a different series and different conditions. Pakistan is always a good Test team. They have a lot of young fast-bowlers and we know what we have to do. The batting obviously let us down the last series and we had a really good camp and all the guys are in the right space,” the skipper stated.
“I won’t be worried about the opposition; once we take care of our plans of being discipline, especially as batsmen because we let ourselves down [but] once we do that, we will be good for sure. It is just to have that belief and batsmen come the party and put scores on the board, spend time [in the middle] and that will put the team in great positions to win Test matches.”
While West Indies are longing for quality performances from their batsmen, Pakistan have numerous quality names, some of who are the poster boys of consistency.
The prolific Babar Azam, Azhar Ali and Mohammad Rizwan are some key pillars in Pakistan’s batting and their wickets could prove key in the outcome.
“They are world-class batsmen and obviously most teams have world-class batsmen and we have world-class bowlers. We won’t focus on the opposition per say, we focus on our strengths and our disciplines,” he expressed.
“It is not going to be easy; they have world-class batsmen and we are going to have to work extra hard to do it and I really look forward to the challenge.”
Judging from the practice match and training sessions, Brathwaite said it is a “good pitch” and as “time went on it spun a bit more.” There are also reports that rain could play a factor.
Noting variety is a welcomed option in any Test unit, Brathwaite opted for left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican to partner the off-spin of Roston Chase instead of the twin option of Chase and Rahkeem Cornwall.
West Indies squad for the first Test: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Kieran Powell, Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Jomel Warrican.
Out from the provisional 17-man squad: Shamarh Brooks, Rahkeem Cornwall, Chemar Holder, Jahmar Hamilton
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-capt, wk), Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Yasir Shah, Zahid Mahmood.