High-flying Pakistan look forward to draw the first blood in the first of three T20 Internationals against a COVID-hit West Indies team at the National Stadium in Karachi today (Monday) at 6 pm.
Pakistan will start as firm favourites after their T20 World Cup and Bangladesh pserfoamnce.
West Indies will come into this T20I series hurting from how their title defence went at the T20 World Cup a month ago. They’ll have more than just hurt to deal with, given the positive Covid-19 tests for Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers, which have ruled the trio out of all three T20Is.
While West Indies are dealing with that, Pakistan will come back to a format in which they might feel they ought to be world champions in. They had trampled through the group stages in the World Cup and had the semi-final all but sewn up against Australia, when Matthew Wade struck. A different 10 minutes and it might have well been Babar Azam with his hands on the trophy instead of Aaron Finch. Their 3-0 sweep of Bangladesh in Bangladesh merely reinforced the point, winning handily in a country and against an opponent where the two finalists – Australia and New Zealand – had lost comprehensively.
In all this, the larger picture is that there is international cricket happening in Pakistan for the first time since New Zealand pulled out, and then England followed suit, just about two months back. West Indies have already arrived, and the first T20I looks set to go ahead despite the positive Covid-19 tests. If any team had half a mind to pull out, surely a slew of positive tests provides a readymade reason, but that West Indies are still in Karachi and preparing to play, means cricket will happen, barring the exceptionally unforeseen.
“We want to carry the momentum and the confidence that we have gained during the World Cup and the tour of Bangladesh,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said in a pre-match media talk on Sunday.
“There has always been talk that they are missing some key players but all those who are here are of international standard so we will not take them easy.”
Pakistan have beaten the West Indies in 12 of their 18 T20I clashes, suffering three losses.
Babar has formed an unbreakable opening partnership with Mohammad Rizwan and a solid batting line-up alongside a bowling attack led by the pace of Shaheen Shah Afridi has seen the team win eight of their last nine T20Is.
Rizwan is the first batsmen ever to score 1,000 T20I runs in a calendar year, amassing 1,123 in 26 matches, while Babar has scored 853 in the same number of games.
The West Indies have had contrasting fortunes, failing to qualify for the World Cup semi-final after winning the competition in 2012 and 2016.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir
West Indies: Nicholas Pooran (captain), Shai Hope (vice-captain), Darren Bravo, Dominic Drakes, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Gudakesh Motie, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr, Rovman Powell.