Pakistan and West Indies sweat in Arab sun.
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter
DateLine: 11th November 2008
The Sheikh Zayed Stadium of Abu Dhabi has hosted five ODIs and the interesting feature is that Pakistan has been involved in all the matches winning three of them. The previous series were held as a commitment but this is the first time that a series is held to compensate the loss of home assignments to help a beleaguered PCB. The team, which hasn’t played any top notch cricket in a while, was at the Zayed International Cricket Stadium, the venue of the three-match One Day International series, titled the Fortune Cup, against the West Indies, which bowls off on Wednesday.
It is not a surprise to see Pakistan and West Indies finding themselves to be fighting for the lower positions of the ICC rankings and this series might help one of the teams to rise to the higher ranks. Pakistan has played 18 ODIs this year and has won 14 of them but delving deep into the story we find that they have played only five matches against the stronger outfits—India, four times and Sri Lanka, one time and all the rest matches comprised of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong. West Indies for their part played gamely against Australia but were whitewashed 5-0, while winning the Scotia bank tri series would be not be very much valued as the components were Canada and Bermuda. The Stanford bonanza might have soothed some of wounds of the Caribbean fans. The Stanford bonanza came as a huge relief and the victory celebrations showed that it really meant a lot to the players.
When Shoaib Malik came to Abu Dhabi last year in May for a three-match one-day series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka, it was his first assignment as skipper of a Pakistan team which had just recovered from a disastrous World Cup and the exit of Inzamam-ul-Haq. Malik had led Pakistan to a 2-1 win over Sri Lanka last time out and waged a lone battle in the last match with an unbeaten 79 - a contest which they eventually lost. The Pakistan skipper will again be looking for a winning 'restart' under a new coach. Mohammed Asif’s drugs scandals, Shoaib Akhtar's ban and now Mohammad Yousuf’s absence - along with questions about his leadership qualities - have all added pressure on a man whose team is hugely short of international cricket. But with the backing of the PCB, Malik will be looking to turn things around starting in the UAE capital.
The bowling looks strong with the come-back of Shoaib Akthar and the improving Sohail Tanvir. Then to support them is Umar Gul and Rao Iftikar Anjum though of the four he looks to be the weak link. Malik, Afridi and Fawad Alam look to handle the spin department. Salman Butt with the company of Kamran Akmal will kick start the innings with the support act of Younis Khan, Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle. This series is a great opportunity for them to prepare for the home series against India next year.
Beyond the Stanford
The Chris Gayle-led West Indies squad comprises a few who turned millionaires after playing for the Stanford Superstars recently and a few new faces who are looking to perform at the highest level. But doubts remain whether the Stanford jackpot has played its part in revving the fortunes of the West Indian Cricket or a false dawn that one always sees regarding the West Indian cricket. But unlike Malik, Gayle is not under the kind of pressure that he is in. But he would be keen to take the team to the victory pedestal and also a golden chance for the new members to step up in international cricket.
The Fortune Cup 2008 might be the ideal series to test their strengths. As usual the team will be banking on the explosive top order to blast off with Shivnaraine Chanderpaul consolidating the innings later. The rest of the batting attack comprises of Shaun Findley and Brendon Nash who has played just seven ODIs between them and the bowling attack is led by Jerome Taylor and Darren Powell while Nikita Miller, Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach will perform the supporting act. Barring Gayle, Xavier Marshall, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chanderpaul the batting looks very thin.
It was at this venue last year that Shahid Afridi blasted an adrenaline-fuelled 32 run over against Malinga Bandara. Malik has the most runs at the venue - 174 at 43.50, at an average of 43.50 and a strike-rate of 74.04 and he can take this up as an inspiration for the matches ahead.
Pakistan has played five times at this venue and has won three times.