Cricket World Cup 2007 Preview: West Indies v/s Pakistan, Jamaica
Sabina Park, home to the Kingston Cricket Club, underwent a major renovation ahead of the World Cup, whereby the capacity was raised from 15,000 to 20,000. The whole process, like most of the other World Cup preparations was "fraught with headaches and delays". In fact there was a minor hick up as late as yesterday, which everyone has been saying is nothing to worry too much about. But as a result, the players had their final practice session at the nearby Kensington Oval. Here's more about the new from the ground's Cricinfo profile:
Locals were worried that the unique atmosphere of the old ground would be lost amid the mass of new concrete, and the acid test will come during the tournament. The spectacular Blue Mountains, (home of the world famous Blue Mountain coffee) form a picturesque and spectacular backdrop to the north facing the George Headley Stand, with Kingston Harbour to the south.
Andy Roberts, a pitch consultant for the World Cup said a day or so back, that the pitches in the tournament would be "sporting" Time well tell how different they are from the slow-and-low surfaces everyone is widely anticipating, but the warm up matches certainly had some interesting (to say the least) surfaces where winning the toss and bowling first often gave you a significant edge. It's difficult to predict if this might be the same again in the main tournament, but historically, the pitches at Sabina Park have proved to be a pretty even hunting ground for both batsmen and bowlers. In the 19 ODIs played here, 7 were won by the team batting first and 11 by the team batting second. So one one hopes the toss isn't going to be much of a factor today as well.
Pakistan couldn't have had a worse run up to the big event. Shoaib and Asif out in controversial circumstances, Razzaq out through injury and before that, a disastrous tour to South Africa where they lost both the test and one-day series. Some confidence will be restored with two well-rounded wins against Canada and South Africa in the warm ups, but there are still some problems to solve. Starting with the opening - Mohammad Hafeez has got some runs (and wickets) in both the warm ups, but his likely partner today, Imran Nazir, is short of runs. The selection dilemma will be minor this time, given Afridi is banned, but Bob Woolmer and Inzamam will still need to decide between Danish Kaneria and Yasir Arafat.
West Indies too, like Pakistan, have problems. They narrowly beat Kenya in their first warm up and were thereafter bundled out for just 85 by a Munaf Patel inspired India. Chris Gayle's poor form in particular (he's averaging under 15 in his last five innings) should be major concern for Brian Lara's team. They also have to decide if they're going to opt for all rounder Dwayne Smith or the fast bowler Darren Powell, and indications are that they might opt for Dwayne Smith. Chanderpaul (with 1178 runs in his last 30 innings at an average of over 47) and Jerome Taylor (in 27 matches in 2006 he took 41 wickets at an average of 27) will be the in form men to watch out for.
Head to Head:
Out of the 109 ODIs played between the two teams, West Indies have won 63, Pakistan 44 and two have been tied. The win-loss record for the ten most recent matches, reads 8-2 in Pakistan's favour. In West Indies however, Pakistan's record is less impressive. Nineteen matches in the Carribean with just 7 wins, 1 tie and 11 losses. In World Cup encounters, the record stands at 5-2 in Pakistan's favour, and Pakistan won the last time they played way back in 1992. More head-to-head statistical analysis by George Binoy earmarks Pakistan as pre-match favorites.
West Indies (likely) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Brian Lara (capt), 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Dwayne Smith, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Ian Bradshaw, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Corey Collymore.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Mohammad Yousuf, 5 Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, 9 Yasir Arafat, 10 Mohammad Sami, 11 Umar Gul.
On Field Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Simon Taufel (Australia)
TV Umpire: Brian Jerling (South Africa)
Reserve umpire: Ian Gould (England)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)
Outlook: Variable clouds with scattered showers
Expected Temperature: Max 31 degrees Centigrade (88 Farenheit)
Winds: East North East at 15 to 25 mph
Chance of rain: 30%.
Dileep Premachandran's Cricinfo Preview from Jamiaca, A look back at past World Cup openers also from Cricinfo, BBC preview, Dawn's preview with quotes from both skippers and another take on the things via The News's Khalid Hussain.