Pakistan return to the Caribbean after six years to play a three-match Test series that is of no less significance. Jerome Taylor’s return to Test cricket, Younis and Misbah’s retirements, several possible debuts, a tic in the ICC Test Rankings, and an elusive maiden Test series win for Pakistan in the Caribbean are all themes surrounding this series.
Pakistan’s last visit to the West Indies was in 2011, which ended in a draw (1-1). They had lost the first Test by only 40 runs, making up for it in the second Test, winning it by 196 runs. It was a series dominated heavily by bowlers from both teams. Saeed Ajmal bagged 17 wickets while only Misbah and Taufeeq Umar scored a century each in the series.
However, the current tour is the best opportunity for Misbah’s men to claim a maiden series victory over West Indies in their own home. If they pull it off, it will be the perfect cherry on the cake to end Misbah’s career as Pakistan’s most successful test captain.
Pakistan hasn’t had the best of starts though. Their tour match against West Indies President's XI wasn’t convincing. Their batting looked shaky with only Ahmed Shehzad and Sarfaraz Ahmed getting to fifties. On the other hand, solid batting performances of 58 & 84 from Kieran Powell earned him a Test call-back into the West Indian side, whereas Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmyer will also get a chance to debut in this test-series. West Indies will look to play attacking cricket against Pakistan, who in the recent past haven’t been on the winning side.
Since the tour of England last summer, Pakistan has had a difficult time in test cricket. They’ve tumbled down to fifth in the ICC Test Rankings, and have been part of six consecutive losses in the recently concluded series against Australia and New Zealand. They’ve fallen prey to ordinary batting performances, and their confidence hasn’t seemed high, a far cry from the Pakistani side that filed in ranks and saluted the Lord’s gallery after winning the first test in England last summer. Their last victory however, came against the West Indies in the UAE, so it should provide some measure of confidence. Pakistan will also seek to orchestrate a fitting farewell for veterans Misbah and Younis, which might just be the motivation they need to get back on to winning ways.
West Indies has lost their last four test series with only two victories in the past 15 tests. Two of those series losses were at home against India and Australia. They play a young-test side against Pakistan, with Kraigg Brathwaite as their most-capped player with 34 test matches under his belt. They have a balanced side with in-touch batsmen, a mix of leg-spinners and off-spinners and promising quicks. They will ignore the stats and come hard at Pakistan, keeping in mind that their most recent victory in Tests came against the touring side. West Indies have left out Marlon Samuels, but they will be boosted by Jerome Taylor coming out of retirement. If picked, he will add significant experience to a young bowling unit, while being just the right stimulus for exposing a low-on-confidence Pakistani batting order.
Younis Khan will retire at the end of the three-match test series. His career has lasted 17 years, debuting in 2000, against Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi where he scored a century in the second innings. He is 23 runs short of scoring 10,000 test runs, and will become the 13th player to get to that landmark in the history of test cricket. He will also be the first Pakistani batsmen to score 10,000 runs or more in tests, while already being the country’s leading run scorer in the longest format.
Misbah-ul-Haq also retires from test cricket after this series. He became Pakistan’s captain in 2010, and is currently Pakistan’s most successful test captain with 24 victories in 53 matches. He requires 49 runs to reach 5,000 test runs in tests. He is the seventh highest run-getter for Pakistan in the 5-day format, with an opportunity to overtake Zaheer Abbas at sixth
Jerome Taylor comes out of retirement in test cricket. He has taken 130 wickets at an average of 34.46. He has a phenomenal record at his home ground in Sabina Park, having taken 29 wickets in 5 tests at an average of 13.58. Also, three of his four five-wicket hauls have been at his home ground.
Pakistan have a chance to move to 5th place in the ICC Test Rankings, if they win the series by a margin of 1-0 or better.
West Indies - Vishaul Singh, Shimron Hetmyer
Pakistan – Mohammad Asghar, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, and Usman Salahuddin
West Indies – Kieran Powell
Pakistan – Shan Masood, and Ahmed Shehzad
Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dorwich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Vishaul Singh.
Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Sarfaraz Ahmed (vice-capt/wk), Younis Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asghar, Shadab Khan, Shan Masood, Usman Salahuddin, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah.