Weak­ened Windies tar­get up­set but se­cu­rity steals head­lines

Stabroek News Sunday - - SUNDAY SPORT -

KARACHI, Pak­istan, CMC – De­pleted West Indies will at­tempt to turn the ta­bles on a con­fi­dent Pak­istan side in a his­toric three-match Twenty20 se­ries which bowls off at the Na­tional Sta­dium un­der pres­i­den­tial-style se­cu­rity here to­day, and sig­nals a re­turn of in­ter­na­tional cricket to the of­ten volatile na­tion.

The Jason Mo­hammed-led 13man out­fit are bereft of the stars which helped them to the cap­ture of the 2016 T20 World Cup in In­dia, and will un­der­stand­ably start as un­der­dogs in a con­test which will be re­mem­bered mostly for its role in re­sum­ing for­eign tours of the cricket-crazy coun­try.

Pak­istan have not hosted a bi­lat­eral se­ries on home soil since mil­i­tants at­tacked a bus car­ry­ing the Sri Lankan team ahead of the third day of the se­cond Test in La­hore nine years ago, in­jur­ing sev­eral play­ers and leav­ing mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces dead.

But fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful host­ing of the In­de­pen­dence Cup in­volv­ing a World XI in La­hore last Septem­ber and the stag­ing of the last two fi­nals of the Pak­istan Su­per League in La­hore and Karachi, the Windies have be­come the first in­ter­na­tional side to take up the Pak­istan Cricket Board’s in­vi­ta­tion for a bi­lat­eral se­ries.

Over 8 000 of the se­cu­rity forces will be de­ployed at the teams’ ho­tels, play­ing venue, sur­round­ing road­ways and air­port, while the Windies will be trans­ported in bul­let-proofed buses and are sched­uled to make no pu­bic me­dia or pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ances.

With the Caribbean side ar­riv­ing late Satur­day night from Dubai in two groups, no prac­tice ses­sion has been sched­uled prior to the open­ing match at 8 pm (11 am East­ern Caribbean time),

The Windies are with­out sev­eral key play­ers in­clud­ing reg­u­lar cap­tain Car­los Brath­waite who opted out of the se­ries be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns. The likes of Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Kieron Pol­lard, Su­nil Narine and Ash­ley Nurse have all also not trav­elled.

As a re­sult, four un­capped play­ers have been in­clud­ing in the tour­ing party though two of them – left-arm spin­ner Veerasammy Per­maul and 19year-old pacer Keemo Paul – have al­ready played in­ter­na­tional cricket.

The 28-year-old Per­maul has played six Tests and seven one­day­ers but with lit­tle suc­cess and has been ig­nored by se­lec­tors for the last 12 months.

Paul, in con­trast, cam­paigned im­pres­sively in the ICC World Cup qual­i­fiers which con­cluded in Zim­babwe last Sun­day, and was also a mem­ber of the ti­tlewin­ning Youth World Cup side two years ago.

Pacer Odean Smith and bats­man An­dre Mc­Carthy are the com­pletely new faces but will line up along­side reg­u­lars in vet­eran Mar­lon Sa­muels, leg-spin­ner Sa­muel Badree, An­dre Fletcher and De­nesh Ramdin – the lat­ter of whom is re­turn­ing to Windies colours for the first time since be­ing axed from all for­mats in 2016.

Even so, the Windies at full strength have strug­gled against Pak­istan of late, los­ing six of the last seven T20s in a bi­lat­eral se­ries – in­clud­ing a 3-0 white­wash 18 months ago in the United Arab Emi­rates.

In fact, since their T20 World Cup suc­cess, the Windies have won just seven of 17 T20Is and are now fifth in the ICC world rank­ings while Pak­istan have as­sumed top po­si­tion.

Pak­istan cap­tain Sar­fraz Ahmed said yes­ter­day that de­spite the miss­ing stars, West Indies re­mained a dan­ger­ous side and could not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

“West Indies are a very strong T20 side. It will be a dif­fi­cult se­ries,” he told re­porters while point­ing out the im­por­tance of the tour to the coun­try.

“We should thank … the West Indies Cricket Board and their team for the tour. I hope it will be a suc­cess­ful tour and when they go back they will tell play­ers from other coun­tries to come to Pak­istan.” He added: “I am also very ex­cited as I last played an in­ter­na­tional game here in 2008 against In­dia. The credit goes to the whole na­tion and I hope they will see very good cricket.”

Sar­fraz leads a strong side, the core of who have clashed with the Windies in home-and-away se­ries in re­cent years.

Vet­eran Twenty20 star Mar­lon Sa­muels … one of the few lead­ing play­ers to travel for the his­toric se­ries.

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