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5 things to look out for in Pakistan vs West Indies

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Carlos_Brathwaite_West_Indies_cricketAs cricket arrives in the centre-stage of the UAE, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are set to revel in the explosive company of two of the most volatile limited over sides around. We might be in for a blazing cricketing saga as the West Indies take on Pakistan in the 1st of the 3 T20 match series. The highlight of this fascinating overseas tour for both sides would be the fact that after a long time, we'll see the Windies and Pakistan battling in all three formats of the game. The 3 T20Is will be followed by as many ODIs and Tests.

So what is it going to be like and what is there to watch out for?

1. Unpredictability may or may not reign

With West Indies and Pakistan, there is only one certainty: unpredictability. Both massively talented sides share a history of plummeting under pressure and rising to the core of a challenge when none expect it. While the Tests will certainly see the Windies with the odds stacked very highly against them due to their notorious vulnerabilities in the past decade, we may never know what an outfit featuring Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles and Sunil Narine may be able to achieve in the limited overs format.

2. Pakistan’s bowling advantage

In both T20s and ODIs, the presence of an ever-deceptive Sohail Tanvir and a re-energized Mohammad Amir may just hurt the chances of the Calypso kings. Moreover, the presence of Wahab Riaz, one of the fiercest fast bowlers around, will seem perceptibly ominous to the West Indies. While the Windies will surely look to pack a punch, as they've so aggressively done over the past few years in the T20 format, the flimsiness with which they approach their game coupled with their tendency to throw away wickets could pose more problems.

This won't be a series where mindless hitting will be the only answer as from what we saw of Pakistan's immediate resurgence despite their record pummeling by England at Nottingham, the West Indies will have to learn to adapt to the wicket and to control Pakistan's pacers, all of whom seem gifted at keeping batsman quiet for long intervals. A batting reliant Windies will have to play out of their skins to tame the Amir- Wahab led attack.

3. The Home away from home advantage

The last time both sides locked horns in a T20 contest in any series was when Pakistan toured the Caribbean and toppled the Windies in their own backyard. The West Indies, of course, retaliated by causing a memorable upset in the ICC World T20 contest in Bangladesh in 2014, but that was just a solitary, out of the blue incident. Their own record against Pakistan has been inconsistent, for lack of a better word.

Of course, there have been some changes meant to lend credibility and solidity to their T20 squad, but the recent axing of Darren Sammy coupled with the treatment given to Denesh Ramdin has only upset the morale of their squad, one that hinges heavily toward seeking T20 expertise from all corners. Another feature that poses importance is the feeling of being acclimatized. Pakistan is well used to the warm nights of the UAE, which the Windies will have to get used to.

4. How well can Carlos Brathwaite handle himself under pressure?

The recent ascension of Brathwaite into the T20 leadership role comes with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. With there being no Chris Gayle in the side, the doyen of free-hitting style of T20s that led Windies to such profound glories in the briefest format, a lot will depend on how Brathwaite handles his troops under the aegis of advisors like Bravo and Pollard. Quick starts by Johnson Charles and Evin Lewis will have to be not only a regular feature but hopefully amount to something credible for the deep end of their batting unit to rise to the stage with fireworks.

But it won't be that easy. Pakistan's batting led by Sharjeel and Lateef at the top order has a fluidity that earlier felt missing from their unit. Moreover, the presence of Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal will manage to match their opponents in the form of Bravo-Pollard. One would hope Narine and Badree will fire all cylinders in their attempt to trap Pakistani batsmen to give Captain Carlos additional support.

5. A chance to relish interesting battles

The Wahab and Amir-led pace attack will look to expose the weak links in the tall order of a batting-heavy Windies line up that has the pace experience of Jerome Taylor and Andre Russell at its disposal. We would love to see some blistering strokeplay during both T20s and limited over series and much of that responsibility will lie in the clean striking abilities of players like Sharjeel, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik on the one hand, and the star-studded lineup of the Windies featuring six hitting machines like Samuels, Bravo, Pollard and Charles on the other. The Windies will place a lot of responsibility in the guile of Sunil Narine to counter what could easily be Pakistan's home run in the Middle East. But we will have to wait and watch.

 

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