Key players likely to dominate West Indies v Pak ODI’s

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The last time that the West Indies faced Pakistan in an ODI series was in 2017. 

Fundamentally speaking, even as it wasn’t so far back in time, it appears to be just the case given so much has changed where the West Indies fortunes stand amid the litany of changes the team has undergone. 

Pollard is no longer a West indian cricketer; Odean Smith and Romario Shepherd, the latter available for the Pakistan tour, are. 

West Indies have managed to lose every single ODI series it played in the sub-continent: losing to Sri Lanka in 2020, Bangladesh in 2021 and India, as seen earlier this year, in 2022.   

Akeal Hosein, 30 wickets from just 17 ODI’s already, hadn’t even arrived in the sport back then, debuting in in maroon colours not before 2021. 

Today, he’s the go-to spinner in the Windies camp. 

Shai Hope and Alzarri Joseph, the only two West Indians who featured in the 2017 series, were just starting back then whereas today, they’re staple picks as also much-needed ones in the limited overs faction. 

Surprisingly, Jason Holder, captain and vital component of the 2017 series, is no longer the captain but has even been “rested” for a series where his participation would’ve been so critical to deciding West Indian fortunes.  

Amid these changes and many more to boot, a new looking West Indies team is in Pakistan to face what’ll clearly be an uphill challenge. 

That the likes of Kyle Mayers, Nkrumah Bonner, Hayden Walsh Jr., Shamarh Brooks, Jayden Seales and Anderson Phillip, all of whom could feature consistently in the course of the three games, have never played Pakistan in an ODI before gives ample evidence of just how inexperienced the Windies side currently is. 

But that it is up against an opponent that features talents you’d call trailblazing in their own right- Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Babar Azam and Mohd. Rizwan, to quote a few, only makes the prospect of seeing the series an interesting affair. 

There’ll either be outstanding records made or some made with sheer domination that Windies will find it hard to overcome unless they play out of their skins, which isn’t, sadly the Caribbean team’s greatest strength. 

Knowing the West Indian penchant for playing ODI cricket as a unit- instead of a true force- you’d feel somewhere that Pooran’s unit will play how a usual West Indies team plays its cricket: like some below par team. 

It is also here where rests an enormous opportunity for the Caribbean side to leave heads turning by fully applying themselves and playing a brand of cricket that could be called inspirational. 

Pakistan, on the other hand, have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they feel readily confident of usurping a Windies side that features no faces that promise a lot. 

So which players are likely to determine the course of the 3 ODI’s?

Haris Rauf

Rauf, who played the Windies featuring Pooran and Brooks, in the T20I’s last year, is more of a recurrent feature in T20I cricket than ODI cricket. 

He’s picked 19 wickets from just 11 fifty over games already and with nagging accuracy, if not backbreaking pace, offers the right ingredients that Babar would like to trouble the Windies line up with. 

Having proven himself to be a bowler who’s hard to score of, the 28-year-old right arm seamer will be the perfect foil for Shaheen Afridi, the Windies having yet to come on top of the challenge the latter offers. 

Rauf, should he play the better part the series, will look to further build on his growing ODI career that’s only seen three games apiece against the likes of Australia, South Africa and England. 

But that he registered a top speed of 153 kmph in the PSL recently should only make things hard for the Windies batsmen. 

Shadab Khan

Most of us who know the unpredictable ways of the West Indies batsmen would know that a lion’s share of their vulnerabilities are down to their weaknesses against spin. 

Rather, make that sheer failures on occasions where the team puts forth a disappointing scorecard, which could again be the case if they don’t come on top of the challenge imposed by the likes of Shadab Khan. 

Having already clinched 62 wickets from 48 ODI’s, many of which have resulted in key dismissals of Lankan, English and Kiwi batters, Khan would like to restrict the Windies as far and best as possible. 

So far, he’s only bowled 27 overs against the Windies side and taken five wickets from those. He’d like to improve on their performance and would be particularly keen to restrict free scoring in the middle inning stages, which is where he’s usually introduced into the attack. 

Babar Azam 

536 of his 4200 plus ODI runs have come against 

West Indies and in an utterly dominant fashion. 

Azam, a product of class and finesse, has also been seen in an aggressive manner in the way he’s gone about consolidating his journey versus the West Indians. 

That he’s scored a fourth of his 16 ODI centuries against this very opponent should further up the case for the fan seeing some butchery with the bat. 

That as captain Babar Azam would like to further push himself to score and lead from the front will likely trouble the Windies bowlers, who without Gabriel, Roach and newcomers in Seales and Phillip will be under pressure. 

Is a run riot at Multan on the forecast? 

Kyle Mayers 

Mayers, fresh from his maiden century in ODI cricket, would like to take up the onerous challenge of playing Pakistan withgreat confidence. 

But at the same time, the batsman who backs himself to go for the big shots, will also like to exercise some caution by not losing his wits in the heat of the moment. 

It’s only then that he can offer ample support to a line up that in the absence of Holder, Gayle, Lewis, Hetmyer, Rutherford, will look to the left hander for useful contributions with the bat. 

That his captain is under pressure having faced a clear drought of runs, which clearly means much of the pressure of scoring rests with Hope, makes Mayers all the more vital from a batting perspective. 

But the brave Windies cricketer would also like to chip in with his dibbly dobbly, seemingly banal but effective medium pacers, which is where Mayers holds the key. 

An important constituent of his success, it ought to be said, is where the team slots in the big hitting leftie in the line up. 

Alzarri Joseph

The lead West Indian fast bowler, one with 73 wickets from 45 ODI’s already, will look to lead the pace attack by an example. 

While the absence of Gabriel and Roach does put pressure on a batting-reliant Windies order, it also offers an excellent chance to Joseph to demonstrate a case where he can lead a new-looking team with some purpose and effort. 

Joseph’s penchant to extract bounce and consistently bowl at fine pace will hopefully assist his team to cause early breakthroughs, such a key facet in what is still a batsman-leaning game. 

He’s no mug with the bat either and that Joseph hasn’t really been utilised as a batsman as well as Windies would’ve liked also offers case for a serious think where Windies’ think tank comprising the great Desmond Haynes and coach Simmons are concerned.  

Shai Hope

It may not be wrong to say that the Shai Hope one saw from the onset of 2019, a year where he produced in excess of 1,300 ODI runs until 2021, isn’t the one we see today. 

But there’s a sense of much relief that the runs are back somewhat given his very meticulously constructed 119 against the Netherlands in the opening ODI of the three-match series. 

That Shai Hope, the test batsman has let himself down by a strange string of lows is clear and evident, which is where the importance of Shai Hope, the one-day resource becomes ever more useful. 

A class act when he gets going, something which truly makes the great game of cricket a beautiful sight, Hope will guard Windies’ often circumspect approach to batting with might. 

That he’s just 101 runs away from reaching the 4000-run mark in ODI’s should offer the much-needed motivation to score well. And that for a batsman of his class, 3 games are enough to reach there also makes the prospect of the contests deeply exciting especially from a Windies fan perspective.  

Nicholas Pooran

There’s no boundary anywhere in any cricket stadia that Pooran can’t clear and no bowler that he cannot rise on top of. But recent form suggests that Pooran’s bat, usually a sound weapon wielded with much grit, has gone silent. 

Pooran, clearly out of from as ODI’s versus the Dutch showed, must bounce back and a great instance of timing from his perspective would be to get going from the first delivery of the opening contest, which is just about to go underway.  

That the series against Pakistan is just his second assignment as a full-time Windies white-ball skipper furthers exemplifies the need to score well and register something noteworthy. 

But can Pooran, whose current form seems woeful, particularly against spin, do so? 

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