For once the lovely beaches of Barbados will be bare today, as cricket fans here will be heading down to Kensington Oval to witness what is expected to be the start of a “revenge series” between the West Indies and Pakistan.
After losing 0-3 to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last October, the West Indies welcome their visitors for the first of four Twenty20 (T20) Internationals at the Mecca of regional cricket from 12.30 pm. Barbadians are very cultured and religious people and from ever since, they would flock to the churches on a Sunday morning for worship. Today one eye will be on the pastor and another on their watches because with a sell out crowd expected at Kensington, they will know that they need to move early to get through the narrow streets in Bridgetown and into the ground.
Local boy Carlos Brathwaite, who won the World T20 title for the West Indies with four successive sixes in the final against England, will be leading the West Indies team and will have with him a number of world T20 stars. Yesterday, the West Indies selectors trimmed the 15-man squad to 13, leaving out local boy Jonathan Carter and Grenadian Andre Fletcher from the team.
West Indies batting coach Toby Radford gives them the edge going into this encounter.
“I think the big thing when we played out there is we found that the pitches were particularly slow and obviously suited their spin bowlers and they made very, very big boundaries and made us run a lot,” he said.
“So hopefully the wickets will be a lot quicker here, more of what we are used to. We are used to playing on these surfaces and when you are on your home patch, everyone is really up for playing and wants a win so hopefully we’re going to get a lot of good support as well. I’m very much ready for a good show from everyone.”
Pakistan comes into the series with a team that has been affected by the loss of some top players. After the corruption scandal hit the Pakistan Super League, Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif and Mohammad Irfan were among those provisionally suspended by the Pakistan Cricket Board in relation to the case. Furthermore, Mohammad Amir has been rested and Umar Akmal has been dropped after he didn’t meet the fitness standard set by the management.
As a result, the selectors threw a lifeline to Kamran Akmal, 35, who last featured in the 2014 World T20; Ahmed Shehzad, 25, and Mohammad Hafeez, 36, who last played in the 2016 World T20; and Usman Khan, who had debuted in 2013 and only played two T20s.