Clash of the unpredictables: WI-Pak tie

Written by: Vineesh Krishnan
Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 10:44 [IST]
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What would happen when two of the world's most talented and unpredictable sides rub shoulders and that too in an ICC Champions Trophy semi-final? One has made a lot of headway and discovered its true touch under a new coach, while the other is in the midst of a rebuilding process and also going through a bad patch.

The West Indies batting-line up is cogent and can tear apart any bowling line-up in the world on their day. But they are unpredictable as well. Up against the Pakistan pace battery of Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami and Rana Naveed-ul-Hassan, they would have to pull out some new tricks out of their hat if they have to outwit them.

Till now, defeating India in every match they play was the be-all end-all of Pakistan. However, now with increased frequency of India-Pakistan matches and improvement of bilateral equations, their focus on India-centric ties seems to have tapered away to some extent.

This Pakistan side is a team with fresh ideas and under the unassuming, reticent skipper Inzamam-ul Haq, they have come beyond the India-syndrome and set their sights on laying their hands on the ICC Champions Trophy. The men in green are confidence personified and focussed on the job to be done.

The erratic West Indies would have to be wary against the newly found discipline in the Pakistani team. The difference between the two sides is that Pakistan has clicked together as an unit, while West Indies, notwithstanding their four-wicket win over South Africa, are struggling to dish out the consistency required at this level.

The bowling department is the big chink in the armoury of West Indians. Relatively inexperienced, they could be thrashed around by any of the Pakistani batsmen if they get going. Lack of experience will show up against talented batting and that could undermine West Indies' hopes of staging a comeback.

In the match against South Africa, all of West Indies' frontline bowlers went for runs. Collymore and Bravo went for 53 and 54 respectively in nine overs. This must be a worry for the West Indians because the Pakistani top order is replete with stroke-makers, who could took full toll of that and get their team off to a flier.

Pakistan, although they won the game against archrivals India, can't be labelled as perfect as well. Although they managed to pack out the out of sorts looking Indian batting line-up out for a measly 200, their performance with the bat has been far from satisfactory.

The Pakistan top order has hardly looked assuring and caved in against Irfan Pathan and had not Yousuf Youhana played that gem of a knock or had Afridi not clobbered those towering sixes off Pathan in the final overs, West Indies could well have been playing India instead of Pakistan.

Pakistan may have lost their two matches against Australia this season. But they have emerged as a disciplined unit under Woolmer. Talent wise, they are not far behind any one. It's remains to be see whether Wednesday's tussle will throw up a new chapter in West Indian cricket for they have been pale shadows of the colossal side they were for decades leading into mid-eighties. Pakistan on the other hand has shown that they have the wherewithal to challenge unofficial world cricket champions Australia and a berth in the ICC Champions Trophy would only underline their growing stature as one of the could-be world's best sides. Surely it's battle royal between the free-flowing Windies batters and scorching Pakistan quick bowlers!

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