The epochal moment that the final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2017 provided Pakistan cricket was thoroughly sullied and left far behind in memory by the spot-fixing scandal that rocked the tournament and consumed several players in it.
Playing a game in Lahore gave International Cricket Council (ICC) a reason to consider reopening the firmly shut doors of Pakistan, even if only slightly, to international cricket, but the corruption clipped Pakistan’s wings. PSL 2017 was two steps forward, but four steps back at the same time for Pakistan.
International cricket, thus, comes as a much-needed tonic for the national side. Beyond the alleged corrupt individuals, PSL has made a positive impact on Pakistan cricket, helping them unearth some fine local talent. A Twenty20 International (T20I) series away from home, against a higher-ranked team will be a true test of potential for the newcomers, who will hope to be more than just PSL specialists.
It is also an opportunity for Pakistan to rise up the ICC T20I rankings and make good use of the dividends that the teams have reaped through two seasons of their T20 league. But the task will not be straightforward. They go up against a side known to boss the shortest format, and bolstered by the presence of stalwarts like Kieron Pollard, Marlon Samuels and Sunil Narine. Dwayne Bravo’s absence, due to injury, however, comes as a dampener for the T20 champions.
Pakistan can take heart from the fact that they blanked their opposition in Dubai just six months ago in the T20I (and ODI) series. With the Champions Trophy coming up, T20I bilateral tours have been sparse, with the Dubai series in September 2016 being the last time both teams played the shortest format of the game. While there isn’t a vital bigger picture to the upcoming T20I series, it allows both teams to find form and combinations ahead of the ODI series, which will be highly important for both teams.
Top eight teams in the ICC ODI rankings by the September 2017 cut-off date will get direct entry into the 2019 World Cup, while the final two berths will have to be contested in a World Cup qualifier in 2018. At the moment, Pakistan and West Indies are placed eighth and ninth, and could have a lot to play for.
When: March 26, 2016 at 10:00 PM IST (12:30 PMLocal time)
Where: Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
What to expect: A humid day is in the offing, with the temperatures expected to go up to 30 degrees during the day and go down to 25 in the second half of the day, which is expected to be balmy.Team News:
West IndiesAs West Indies go into yet another series with an abundance of T20I stars, the aspect of cohesion comes up yet again. Individually, most are exceptional, but the key will once again be in whether they can perform well as a unit.
Squad: Samuel Badree, Carlos Brathwaite(c), Jonathan Carter, Andre Fletcher, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Veerasammy Permaul, Kieron Pollard, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams
PakistanContext or no context, this is perhaps a good time for Pakistan to play T20 cricket and figure out how many of their PSL performers have it in them to perform at the highest stage. While the likes of Kamran Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad have the chance to carry forward their purple patch, the younger likes of Shadab Khan, Rumaan Raees and Usman Khan could make their presence felt.
It could also be interesting to see how Mohammad Hafeez fares through the series. After being a second-choice selection for the tour of Australia, where his performances flattered to deceive, Hafeez has managed to hold on to his spot. It could also be vital to see if captain Sarfraz Ahmed turns to Hafeez the bowler, who has comeback with a remodelled action.
Squad: Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Fakhar Zaman, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan