SHARJAH – Recent West Indies captains have become expert at being positive before losses and again finding positives after defeats.
Today captain Jason Holder was in similar vein during a pre-match press briefing at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium ahead of Friday’s first of three One-Day Internationals against Pakistan.
Holder said he was expecting a much better showing against the hosts following the West Indies’ meltdown in the Twenty20 International series which they lost 3-0, their first ever series whitewash in that format.
With more time to adjust to the conditions in the ODI format, Holder said he expected his team to give the rampant Pakistanis much stiffer competition.
“They (Pakistan) did well in the T20 series but, having said that, there is more time with this format. Batsmen have more time to give themselves and a chance to set themselves,” Holder said.
“It is important for our top four batsmen to bat as deep as possible and lay the foundation for the middle and lower order guys to come and be powerful. As I said, you have more time to assess the conditions and play yourself in and get a score and lay a foundation. If we can do that more often then, we can get a very good total,” he added.
The series is of major importance to both teams with 9th ranked Pakistan potentially being able to leapfrog the 8th ranked West Indies in the rankings with another 3-0 win. With the International Cricket Council (ICC) forming a new protocol that gives only the top-eight-ranked teams direct qualification for the 2019 Cricket World Cup, both West Indies and Pakistan will be jostling for that eighth spot and safe harbour.
Holder’s side has been ‘reinforced’ with the addition of veterans in left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and wicketkeeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin, as well as batsman Darren Bravo and new addition to the ODI team, Kraigg Brathwaite. The Test opener is expected to bring some solidity to the Windies’ fragile top order. Left-handed middle-order batsman Jonathan Carter is also in the mix and likely to press for a spot in the starting eleven.
Marlon Samuels remains an underperformer and his position could come under further scrutiny if he continues to be more a major part of the batting problem than the solution. Johnson Charles’ batting in the 3-0 whitewash was abysmal and further failure could see him relegated to carrying the towels.
West Indies’ bowling stock in the Twenty20s failed to make any significant dents in the Pakistani batting order and Holder will be hoping that the addition of fast bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph will add more teeth to his attack.
Much of Sunil Narine’s mystery has seemingly deserted him since having thrice to remodel his action. He failed to take a wicket in the 3-0 whitewash and never looked like doing so. His form must be a worry for the team and the off-spinner needs to lift his game significantly, but without extending or flexing his elbow beyond 15 degrees.
Holder believes that his team can gain inspiration from making the final of the Tri-Nations Series involving Australia and South Africa back in June in the Caribbean.
“We had a very good series last series in the Tri-Nations Series and it’s just important that we continue on from there, keep the momentum going into that one,” he said.
The last time the Pakistan and West Indies met in an ODI, West Indies inflicted a heavy defeat on the Asian side, with a 150-run victory during last year’s Cricket World Cup. However, West Indies have not beaten Pakistan in a bilateral series in 24 years.
Holder said West Indies were looking at different aspects of their game – especially the death stages of the innings – during planning sessions and were focused now on executing properly.
“We’ve obviously mentioned the death overs in our meetings. If it is one area we need to pay special attention to is obviously the death,” Holder noted.
“Most teams around the world structure their plans around the first few overs and also pay special attention to the death overs. Most games are won and lost there and I just think it is very, very important that we sit down and plan properly.
“I think most of the bowlers have a general plan of what they are looking to do and it’s just important for me and them to be on the same page. I think once we have good communication in terms of bowlers and the captain, then it make life a bit easier, and if you have options – in terms of a Plan A and then a Plan B – it also makes life a lot easier going into pressure situations.”
Pakistan’s recent form in ODI cricket has also been dodgy. They conceded their latest ODI series 1-4 to England and were completely outplayed in all four defeats. Captain Azhar Ali will be hoping for much better against the struggling visitors.
Wicketkeeper/batsman Sarfraz Ahmed is in excellent form and should be pivotal to their efforts. In the bowling department, Imad Wasim tormented the West Indies in the Twenty20s, picking up nine wickets, including a five-wicket haul. He should be a major threat once again. Left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir, who had a quiet tour of UK, could also prove a handful in familiar conditions.
The game starts at 7 a.m. Barbados time.
Teams: Pakistan: Azhar Ali(c), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(w), Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Umar Akmal, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Asad Shafiq West Indies: Johnson Charles, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin(w), Jonathan Carter, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder(c), Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse, Alzarri Joseph, Sulieman Benn, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shannon Gabriel.