Hosts West Indies will look to kick off their World Cup in style when they play Pakistan in their opening game in Group C at Sabina Park on Tuesday.
The West Indies had one loss and one win in their two warm up games- the win was against Kenya and the loss was against India. The batting collapse that they had against India would have sent alarm bells ringing through their camp. The margin of victory against Kenya was not too large either- 20 runs. Their last tour before the World Cup didn’t go too well- they lost a 4 game ODI series 1-3 to India in India. So, the hosts are not very high on confidence, but they do have home advantage. This World Cup will, in all eventuality, be Brian Lara’s last world cup and he will want to sign off on a high. Ramnaresh Sarwan had a good innnings in the last ODI played at Sabina, where the Windies beat India in a thrilling game by one run. The venue looks to be a low scoring one, and batsmen will need to apply themselves if they are to get a score of greater than 50. Gayle and Samuels also managed to register good scores to their names in the Kenya game, and the Windies will be hoping that they can get going in this game. The duo will also play an important role with the ball. Lara has relied on their spin to not only provide wickets, but also to contain the flow of runs at the depth.
Pakistan, the 1992 World Cup winners are probably the most unpredictable team in this 16 team event. One day, they can look invincible, the other day they can look pedestrian. It is this unpredictability which makes other teams wary of them. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, two of their top bowlers, are not playing in this event. They had the better of the Windies in Pakistan in late 2006, and they have won both their warm up games- against Canada and current world no 1 South Africa. Most of their batsmen have managed to spend some time in the middle in both the games. So they are not too short on match practice.Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam Ul Haq will play a pivotal role in the middle order. Imran Nazir will look to do a Jayasuriya at the top . Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami will have the task of ensuring that Gayle and Co don’t get in. Kaneria’s spin could come in handy, if the pitch does assist the spinners and Afridi will use his faster ones to test the opposition.
West Indies have home advantage. They Calypsos also won the opening game of the 2003 world cup against South Africa. Pakistan won their opening game of the 1987 World Cup. Winning is essential as this match will effectively decide who wins Group D. Pakistan also need to erase the memories of their dreadful 2003 campaign. The last ODI and Test which were played on this ground was won by the side batting first.I’d back Pakistan to win this one, given that the Windies are not in the best of form, but you can never say what Lara’s side can spring up.