Posted by: iccwc | March 12, 2007

Preview: WI v Pakistan, Sabina Park

One of Cricket’s truly memorable stadia, Sabina Park has been host to centuries, controversy and cacophanous noise over the years it has been a test match host. The old Sabina Park though, is no more. The advent of the ICC World Cup has brought about drastic changes to the stadium that was host to Sobers’ test match batting record. It is now renovated and truly ready to host cricket at the highest level.

Some believe the tinkering (seating has been bumped up by 5,000) will ruin the deafening and mind-boggling atmosphere once found there, but those who believe it will be a chastening experience for the ground are outnumbered by those, including me, who are saying ‘about bloody time’.

On more than one occasion the ground has been under great suspicion for providing pitches which more resembled martian surfaces than grass, and recently England’s game with the West Indies was abandoned because of danger to life and limb. But what will the two teams face when they arrive for the game on tuesday?

The West Indies, regardless of their triumphant opening ceremony, could not come into this game on a lower note. Demolished by India in the recent warm-up games, and rumours of money frustrations still abound, it is going to take something heroic from their ageing Captain to mould this team into something resembling professionals.

With age and talent on his (left-hand) side, Chris Gayle ought to be the performer of the tournament. Brutal but languid power, coupled with an eagle-eye for the ball and some laconic but accurate bowling, means Gayle is the proverbial man for all seasons. The current regulations, although no doubt they will change probably mid-over, play right into the Jamaican’s gloves. With the field set in for the first ten overs, he is in a position to play a game within a game, much like Sri Lanka did in 1996.

Gayle cannot carry a team all by himself, and the senior and frankly, superior, players around him must mentally turn up at Sabina if they’re to stand any chance of winning. Sarwan, Lara and Chanderpaul have vast experience of the world game and all average 40+ in the shortened version of the game, there is no excuse for these men to fail on home soil. If they can’t do it in the West Indies, it might be time to make wholesale changes.

Key man: Jerome Taylor

Frightening speed and hitherto unharnessed accuracy could mean that on a good day, he can give his team mates the chance to get an early bath.

Although I have dismissed the chances of the West Indies, because they are a team lacking in direction at least they haven’t got a couple of disgraceful drug cheats ruining the party for everyone else.

The media melee surrounding Asif and Akhtar means that Pakistan are going to be guaranteed a multimedis scrum whereever they set foot, and it must, for the players, be impossible to ignore.

Their case is an example of the total lack of communication and correlation between the confederate cricketing nations and their overseer, the ICC. One moment they are not banned, then banned for life, and then it is reduced and increased incrementally, and finally they are not playing because they conveniently have injuries, most probably to their egos. The ICC members should have stood up off their Saville Row-ed backsides and done something about it before the World Cup started, because to still have the row rumbling on, is for me, showing a great deal of disrespect to the host nations.

Problems aside though and Pakistan have to be seen as one of the top four teams in the competition. With the established ‘golden tripod’ of Inzamam, Yousuf and Younis, Pakistan have a central core to rival Australia. Kamran Akmal is emerging as a huge talent in the game, and Danish Kaneria’s hybrid leg-spin/impish pest routine has accounted for the best in the world.

As long as Politics doesn’t spill into the dressing room, Pakistan will surely be a force to be reckoned with this year, and will hope for a repeat of their 1991 success.

Winner: Pakistan by either 80 runs or 5 wickets.

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