KARACHI – Pakistan will host a three-match T20I series against the West Indies starting on Sunday in Karachi.
The last time international cricket was played at Karachi’s National Stadium was in 2009, a Test match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The other two matches in the series take place on Monday and Tuesday.
The subsequent attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore led to Pakistan having to play their home games away, primarily in the United Arab Emirates.
Cricket fans in Pakistan have craved regular live cricket of the international variety since then but the game has returned to the country to some degree in recent times.
Zimbabwe toured them in 2015 for a short limited-overs series, and since then Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium has hosted three World XI exhibition Twenty20 matches, a T20 International against Sri Lanka and the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in 2017.
More recently, Karachi hosted the final of the 2018 edition of the PSL.
Cricket West Indies chief executive Johnny Grave saying these T20Is not be considered anything less than “full internationals”.
And though Windies haven’t been able to name their strongest possible squad – Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder and Devendra Bishoo decided to skip the series due to security concerns – the ICC World T20 2016 champions should have enough to keep the home side on their toes.
Jason Mohammed, 31, who has so far played six T20Is and 26 one-day internationals, will lead the 13-man squad, comprising four newcomers in Andre McCarthy, a middle-order batsman, pacers Odean Smith and Keemo Paul (who recently made his ODI debut), and Veerasammy Permaul, the left-arm spinner who has played Tests and ODIs but not T20Is.
It’s an opportunity for them to stake claims for regular spots, and play alongside the likes of Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree, Andre Fletcher, Rovman Powell and Kesrick Williams.
Pakistan are also expected to blood a few youngsters. Asif Ali, Hussain Talat and Shaheen Afridi have all been named in the squad, with each player possessing tantalising possibilities.
Ali is a powerful middle-order batsman and can give the ball a thwack in the death overs, the 22-year-old Talat offers balance with his all-round abilities, while Afridi’s exploits with the ball, including at the recent ICC Under-19 World Cup 2018, has already earned comparisons with Mitchell Starc.
Pakistan, the No1 side in the ICC Rankings for T20Is, are missing Imad Wasim and Rumman Raees through injury, but have a full-strength side otherwise.
The Pakistan players don’t often get to play in front of their own fans, and are sure to be buoyed by the occasion. Windies will have to make sure they are not outsiders to the party.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c/wk), Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Faheem Ashraf, Muhammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi.
Windies: Jason Mohammed (c), Samuel Badree, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Andre McCarthy, Keemo Paul, Veerasammy Permaul, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Marlon Samuels, Odean Smith, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams.
African News Agency