Pakistan will look to prove to the retiring Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan that it can hold its own when the duo walks way into the sunset when the team takes on West Indies in the first of three Tests starting at Sabina Park in Kingston on Friday (April 21).
Misbah, 42, had announced on April 6 that he would retire at the end of this series. If his exit wasn’t enough to create a massive void, Younis, 39, said a week later that this would be his last series too.
Fortunately for Pakistan, the stalwarts, who have a combined experience of over three decades and just under 15,000 runs in Test cricket, will be available to try and lift Pakistan from its current No. 5 position in the ICC Test rankings.
In the three-match series against West Indies in the UAE in October-November last year, Pakistan took a comfortable 2-0 before losing the final game by five wickets. Following that loss, Pakistan has also gown down in each of its last five Tests -- two in New Zealand and three in Australia.
Following the slump, Pakistan slipped from the top of the ICC Test rankings - a spot it earned after drawing the series against England last September - to fifth.
While much of the limelight has been Pakistan’s recent form and Misbah’s curtain call, Younis, who is Pakistan’s leading scorer in Test cricket, has gone under the radar despite being a mere 23 runs away from becoming the first Pakistani to 10,000 runs.
Personal milestones aside, Pakistan’s focus will be on using this occasion to not only provide the duo with the perfect farewell but also to complete its first-ever Test series victory in the Carribean.
West Indies, on the other hand, will train its eyes on bringing one home for Sabina Park on the occasion of its 50th Test. The Jason Holder-lead side will fancy its chances, keeping in mind Pakistan’s lacklustre show in the warm-up game against a West Indies President’s XI.
“After winning our previous Test which was against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, the panel felt that we should stick as close as we possibly can to that squad,” said Courtney Browne, the current chairman of selectors.
“We have a young Test squad which was admirably led by Jason Holder during the last series and, though there are some noticeable absentees, we believe that the players will give a good account of themselves especially in their own backyard.”
But it isn’t going to be easy for West Indies. Kieran Powell and the uncapped pair of Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmyer, who put on a noteworthy show in the warm-up game, have been included in the 13-member squad. It is, however, likely that Hetmyer and Miguel Cummins will miss out in the first Test.
Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo and Leon Johnson were all left out of the squad that did duty during the loss to Pakistan last year.
Kraigg Brathwiate, West Indies’s hero during their first Test win over Pakistan away from home, will need to tap into the same stream of focus to provide stability.
It will be tough task against the likes of Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir, but he showed that he could stand up to them not long ago.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Vishaul Singh, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich (wk), Roston Chase, Devendra Bishoo, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel.
Pakistan : Misbah ul Haq (capt), Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas.