DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, CMC — Favourites West Indies take on an unpredictable Pakistan in the opening Twenty20 International of their three-match series here Friday, hoping to make a bold statement and enhance their status as reigning World champions.
Ranked number three in the world and packed with an array of the finest T20 players, West Indies have all to lose in the series while Pakistan, ranked seventh in the world rankings, will be seeking to spring an upset and enhance their lowly status.
And though West Indies will enter the contest with the edge, new captain Carlos Brathwaite said his side would be taking nothing for granted against the dangerous Asian unit.
“Pakistan are a very good team. The media and the public often say that we are both very unpredictable so hopefully you get three very unpredictable games from both teams,” the Barbadian told reporters.
“On their day, Pakistan can blow any team away and we’re mindful of that fact and we’ll pay them the due respect. We’ve gone through our plans for each player and it is about execution when we get out on the park and don’t think for one second we will be taking them for granted.
“We appreciate and respect their skill set, respect each and every player and will go out there and try to defend our crown as the best T20 team in the world.”
West Indies are without two-time World Cup-winning skipper Darren Sammy who was axed last month, and are also missing superstar opener Chris Gayle, star all-rounder Andre Russell and batsman Lendl Simmons.
All four players were key ingredients of their World Cup triumph in India and the the responsibility will now fall on the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Brathwaite, to deliver.
Brathwaite said, however, any pressure being felt in the team was more a sense of responsibility to ensure West Indies executed up to their high standards.
“Anytime you put on the maroon to represent the West Indies … it is pressure. And if you don’t feel that pressure as a West Indies player, you don’t belong at the highest level,” he argued.
“I can speak for all the players: we do feel that pressure to perform and for me being captain it’s just a task of managing some of the best players in the world and it is more exciting than a feeling of pressure, to be honest.
“The emotion that I feel most is excitement — the ability to lead the best T20 players in the world. I wouldn’t say it’s added pressure … it’s just something you have to understand, agree with, come to grips with, accept and move on.”
West Indies’ attack will be led by mystery bowler Narine with World number one leg-spinner Samuel Badree also a key facet in the line-up.
Bravo will lead the seam attack which includes Jerome Taylor, Jason Holder along with the uncapped duo of Rovman Powell and Kesrick Williams.
Though the flatter pitches of the subcontinent are usually spin-friendly, Brathwaite said he did not expect spinners to necessarily be the trump card.
“Looking at the PSL (Pakistan Super League), the majority of the top wicket-takers were actually pacers so it is a myth that spinners dominate the subcontinent but once we get out there we’ll see firstly how the first 20 overs go and then we can tailor the back end of the 20 overs to suit,” he explained.
“We have back-to-back games and a lot of things come into effect then … so I don’t think it is which spinners bowl best or which team plays spin the best.
“It’s still a T20 game of cricket and pacers have their role to play so let’s see which team executes their skills set best in the two games.”
The game bowls off at 8 pm (midday Eastern Caribbean time).
PAKISTAN — Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Muhammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Muhammad Nawaz, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Saad Nasim, Rumaan Raees.
WEST INDIES — Carlos Brathwaite (captain), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton.