Windies, Pakistan set to launch T20 series
Gros-Islet: Old foes West Indies and Pakistan face each other in a Twenty20 International for the first time on Thursday.
The Beausejour Cricket Ground in this coastal town on the northern circumference of this volcanic island of St Lucia forms a picturesque backdrop for the occasion.
It is hard to believe that though Twenty20 matches have become popular in the modern game that the two sides have not been fortunate enough to cross each other`s paths in this version before now.
Pakistan manager Intikhab Alam said there were great expectations of his side, following a strong, if not successful show in the World Cup.
"We`ve brought some youngsters with us, and I think it`s a golden opportunity for them to make a name for themselves, and to make a career in the sport," said Alam.
"It was a long journey from Pakistan to the Caribbean, but we travelled well, and the boys are all happy and they`re well."
"The people in Pakistan are very happy with us [following the World Cup]. Now the expectations are even higher for this tour of the West Indies because we have never won a [Test] series out here before."
West Indies manager Richie Richardson said there have been enough good individual performances from his side in the last few months to make him feel confident, but they would have to put it all together to overcome the Pakistanis.
"We`re about to head into this series, which is very important - it`s a home series," he said.
"As a region, it`s always very important, and for our home fans, who look forward to excitement and to us doing well.
"It`s easier for us to do well with our home crowd and their support, and it gives an opportunity to bring ourselves back up the ladder - to dig deep, work hard, prove ourselves, and give back to our fans."
He added: "People across the World have been accustomed to the West Indies providing exciting cricket and we must work harder to give that to them."
Both sides have made significant changes in personnel since the World Cup, and have invested heavily in a number of unproven players for the limited-overs portion of the series, which includes this T20.
Pakistan have dropped wicketkeeper/batsman Kamran Akmal and all-rounder Abdul Razzaq, while fast bowler Umar Gul and experienced batsman Younus Khan were dropped from the team.
Wicketkeeper Muhammad Salman has been given a chance, while batsmen Hammad Azam and Usman Salahuddin, as well as left-arm fast-medium bowler Sadaf Hussain have been included in the team for the first time.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sulieman Benn - four high-profile members of the West Indies World Cup squad - have all been sidelined by the selectors for this match, and the first two One-day Internationals that follow.
For this T20, the home team have brought in the uncapped quartet of batsman Danza Hyatt, all-rounder Christopher Barnwell, off-spinner Ashley Nurse, and left-arm fast bowler Krishmar Santokie.
West Indies have also been fortified with the inclusion of stylish batsman Marlon Samuels, who is once again eligible for selection, after serving a two-year ban for his alleged involvement with illegal bookmakers.
Utility player Lendl Simmons, the nephew of Ireland coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indies all-rounder, is also back in the squad, along with batsman Andre Fletcher, who will handle duties behind the stumps.
West Indies: (from): Darren Sammy (captain), Christopher Barnwell, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Andre Fletcher, Danza Hyatt, Ashley Nurse, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Krishmar Santokie, Lendl Simmons.
Pakistan: (from): Shahid Afridi (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq (vice captain), Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shahzad, Asad Shafiq, Hammad Azman, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Salman, Sadaf Hussain, Saeed Ajmal, Tanveer Ahmed, Taufeeq Umar, Umar Akmal, Usman Salahuddin, Wahab Riaz.