The Telegraph
Tuesday , April 1 , 2014
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Windies, Pakistan bank on spinners

Darren Sammy during a practice session, on Monday

Calcutta/Dhaka: As teams, the West Indies and Pakistan may differ in nature, but both the Group II sides have been having a strikingly similar World T20 this time.

Both of them lost their opening matches to India and both then came back strongly to post victories over Australia and Bangladesh.

But the West Indians have done slightly better as they have a better net run-rate. However, that aspect has almost been rendered null and void. As the two teams square off on Tuesday, they will be vying for the last available semi-final place. So whoever wins goes through.

Of course, it will be different if the game is washed out. In that case, West Indies will advance as their net run-rate of +1.223 is better than Pakistan’s +0.893.

The two teams are also similar in their strengths with both having a potent spin attack. While the West Indies have Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree, Pakistan will depend on Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi.

Both the captains, Darren Sammy and Mohammed Hafeez, quite expectedly believe that spin will play a key role in deciding the fate of Tuesday’s match.

Speaking at a media conference on Monday, Sammy said: “Whatever approach we go in with, we definitely have to rotate the strike. It’s a do or die match for us… Go big or go home. I think the game against India, where it was spin-oriented, we conceded probably 60 per cent dot balls… So it’s something that we’ve been working on and hopefully we can rotate the strike and get the boundaries in between, and play much better against spin than we’ve done in the past.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game, but it’s a step we’re ready to take. We’ve prepared ourselves… We know exactly what we have to do and spin is something that we have to conquer in this game. With that said, we back ourselves, put our runs on the board and defend it, or if it’s the other way around, restrict them to a low total and chase it down like we did against Australia… But hopefully, it will be not 170 that we would have to chase,” Sammy said.

With former Pakistan spinner Saqlain Mushtaq being an assistant coach with the West Indies, the Sammys must surely be knowing a thing or two about the Pakistan spinners. Speaking on that, Sammy said: “Saqlain has been a good addition to us, especially with the spinners… Yes they’ve got all their spinners, but we’ve got No.1 (Sunil Narine) and No.2 (Samuel Badree) in our dressing room as well. They’ve got to plan to bowl to our batsmen and face our bowlers as well.

“It’s going to be a very competitive game… The last two days we’ve been practising the way we want to go out and play… Like rotating the strike in the middle… We know we can get the boundaries, so we just have to do that. They have got some quality spinners, which we are aware of, but they are not unplayable. In this format of the game, you respect your opposition, but at the end of the day we’ve shown that on any given day, the best bowler can go for many runs, like that final against Sri Lanka (in 2012). So we have our plans and we have to go out and execute them. We believe we can do that,” Sammy said.

Hafeez, on the other hand, said: “West Indies rely a lot on their spinners. At the same time, we too have some of the best spinners in the world. For both sides the spinners will to play a very, very key role. The team which plays the spinners well will have the advantage in this game.”

The Pakistan captain also said that the conditions have worked to the spinners’ advantage. “As a team, you always think what the conditions are and you back yourselves. As I mentioned earlier, spinners are doing great in these conditions, so why not go with them? We still got one of the best pacers in Umar Gul. He has been exceptional in T20 cricket. And (Sohail) Tanvir has always performed well in this format,” Hafeez said.

Hafeez didn’t agree that having Saqlain in their support staff gives the West Indies an advantage. “There is no doubt that Saqlain was a great spinner during his era and enjoyed great success...The thing is there is no such medicine that you can give so that a player will start doing well. It requires a lot of skill.”