DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, CMC – Whitewashed in the preceding Twenty20 and One-Day series and heavily criticised for their plethora of weak performances, West Indies face the Herculean task of rescuing a tour in crisis when they clash with Pakistan in the historic day/night first Test starting here today.
The Caribbean side were a shadow of themselves in the three-match T20 series where they were heavily favoured and where brushed aside 3-0 by Pakistan, and a similar series result followed in the ODI series where they were distinctly second best to the hosts in all departments.
However, with the tour flirting perilously with disaster, West Indies have been presented with the ideal opportunity to halt the rut.
They are coming off a 2-0 defeat in the four-Test series against India in the Caribbean but under-pressure captain Jason Holder told a media conference here yesterday, the series was a chance to press the reset button.
“Obviously, it is a young team and we obviously went down to India in our last series but it is a fresh series here,” the all-rounder said.
“The guys have had a pretty good lead-up to this Test series. We have been here quite a while, most of the guys had a good run out, we had a good camp in the Caribbean for the Test players alone, and they came here early and had a two-day game prior to the three-day game.”
He added: “I feel preparation wise, we have covered that. It’s just a matter of executing now. From the talks in the dressing room everybody seems pretty confident, everybody is in good spirit and so we hopefully we can transfer that onto the field of play.”
West Indies enter the contest at the Dubai International Stadium on the back of pretty ordinary Test form. In 15 Tests over the last two years, West Indies have won a single game – against England in the Caribbean last year – and have lost 10 of those contests.
The majority of these defeats have been heavy ones, with three by innings margins, another three by over 150 runs and another three by eight wickets or more.
Though West Indies lost the India series, the tour managed to unearth the likes of batsman Roston Chase and fast bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins, all of whom made their debuts with some success.
While endorsing the young talent in the squad, Holder said the focus now would be on execution.
“We have got some young quality players, players that have done well in youth cricket leading up to first class cricket and obviously have gotten some results in international cricket as well,” he pointed out.
“If you look down our line-up, Kraigg Brathwaite has been around for a little while and he has got a few centuries. Shane Dowrich came back into the squad in the last series and did well for himself.
“We have got the talent there and it is a matter of execution and just playing some aggressive cricket.”
Pakistan enter the series with the edge, having won six of their last 12 outings against West Indies in the last 16 years and lost just three. They boast the likes of in-form opener Babar Azam, captain Misbah ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, along with the spin duo of Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar.
The Test will be the first with the pink ball under lights for either team and Holder said the Windies were looking forward to the spectacle.
“We’ve had a few pink ball games in the Caribbean. I’ve personally played in a pink ball game in the Caribbean in a first class game and it has been implemented in the Caribbean for the last few seasons … so I wouldn’t say it is something new to everybody,” he noted.
“We probably need a little more of it to get accustomed to it and that will take time. Maybe a thought is scheduling a few more pink ball games in domestic cricket back home if it is going to be played on the international circuit.”
The Test bowls off at 3:30 pm (7:30 pm Eastern Caribbean time).
PAKISTAN – Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Imran Khan.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Leon Johnson, Alzarri Joseph, Marlon Samuels, Jomel Warrican.