Pakistan are not the most dynamic limited overs team in international cricket at the moment. They are currently placed ninth in the ODI rankings and seventh in T20s and face an uphill task as they hope to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup.
Also, their four successive ODI defeats in England showed they fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to white-ball cricket. But the final two matches of the England tour offered a glimmer of hope.
Pakistan won the last ODI in Cardiff by four wickets and then clinched the one-off T20 in Manchester by nine wickets. Needless to say, it was a much needed set of results for the team and coach Mickey Arthur.
Pakistan now take on reigning world champions West Indies in a three-match T20 series here and it is a golden opportunity for the men in green to gather some steam in limited-overs cricket.
The Windies enter the series with a fairly weak side. There is no Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons or Andre Russell while World T20 winning captain Darren Sammy and coach Phil Simmons have already been shown the door. It can be said a big chunk of the team’s core is missing and this is where Pakistan can capitalise.
Pakistan hold a slight upper hand when it comes to conditions because the Windies play their home games on slow surfaces and in the heat as well. Which makes it even more important for Pakistan to land the first blow and not let go of the advantage.
In the batting department, left-handed Sharjeel Khan at the top of the order provides the necessary firepower while Umar Akmal’s return to form in the domestic circuit should mean some lusty blows lower down.
Their bowlers have experience on their side and with some big hitting Windies batsmen missing, the likes of left-arm quicks Wahab Riaz and Sohail Tanvir should look to assert themselves.
But West Indies won’t just roll over. All-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard are the masters of the T20 game while Marlon Samuels has a long history of turning a match on its head.
The one aspect which the ‘hosts’ must be wary of is the spin threat of Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine. The two are the most dangerous limited overs spin attack in the world and if Pakistan can safely negotiate them, the coast should be clear from there.
The three-match T20 series is a great chance for Pakistan to maintain the momentum gained from the two wins in England and also get their house in order ahead of a tough season which sees them travel to Australia.
They have proven to be top class when it comes to Test cricket, which is reflected in their No. 1 ranking, but Pakistan need to be a lot more energetic in limited overs cricket.
Despite the talent in the West Indies side, it must be said that Pakistan have a good opportunity to get some positive results under their belt.
But if Pakistan fail to raise their level in favourable conditions, the road ahead in white-ball cricket will get even more rough.
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