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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Knockout round begins with Pakistan v/s West Indies

Group Stage is over and now ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is heading towards business end. Now on  teams have to win all the 3 matches they will be playing in order to become the champions of ODIs. Pakistan will face West Indies at Mirpur, Bangladesh in first game of knockout. Pakistan will certainly get lot of support in Mirpur  and they will feel themselves at home while playing in Mirpur which gives them little edge.

Pakistan played superb cricket during the group stage and surprised everybody. Captain of  Pakistan team, Shahid Afridi re-invented himself as a player in the tournament and lead from the front. I think whoever questioned his credentials as captain must have got their answers. Now if Pakistan go on to win the World Cup then it will be icing on the cake and Shahid Afridi will become national hero. Pakistan team just lost one game in group stage and emerged as topper in their group leaving Sri Lanka and Australia behind. Although Pakistan topped the group but unpredictability still prevails and good example of that is the loss against New Zealand. So their victory in the quarter-final cannot be taken for granted.

Pakistan showed good team-work during the group stage and every member of the team contributed towards the good performance of team. Waqar Younis must be a happy man as of date but there are lot problems also which Waqar Younis and Shahid Afridi have to address and rectify them. Pakistan's top-order failed in the group stage badly and there was lot of chopping and changing happened so they have to go in with correct batting line-up.  They have to promote Kamran Akmal as opener along with Asad Shafiq because Akmal was their opener in many matches and use Mahammed Hafeez at No.3. They have to promote Umar Akmal as well to No.4 because he is too good player and simply wasted at No.6. This move will allow experienced campaigners like Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq to control the game and make that middle-order strong. Apart from that Afridi and Razzak have to shoulder some responsibility with the bat. Afridi is very talented with the bat but he is not taking his batting seriously and thats where Pakistan face problems. Against Australia in a league match Pakistan was near to the victory and sensible cricket was required there but Afridi came in and played reckless shot which was not required according to the match situation. Although Pakistan won that game but that shot could  have easily gone against the Pakistan aslo. So Afridi have to be sensible and bat according to the situation if he wants to win the elite trophy.

Pakistan bowling is good and doing well in the tournament. Afridi is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament and he is spearhead of Pakistan bowling. Umar Gul and Razzak are supporting Afridi very well and if they include Shoaib Akhtar in tomorrow's match then they will prove more dangerous to their opposition. They have big problems with Kamran Akmal's wicket-keeping as poor guy kept dropping catches throughout the tournament. Pakistan's lost to New Zealand only because of the dropped catches. However Kamran Akmal showed the signs of improvement in the match against Australia where the took few catches and this will give him some confidence. 

West Indies entered into the knockout stage only because Bangladesh had poor run-rate as both Bangladesh and West Indies shared the same points at the end of group stage. During group stage West Indies failed to beat top teams like South Africa, England and India so their is big question-mark on their capabilities to beat the top teams. They must be happy that they are playing Pakistan in Quarter-Finals which has unpredictability factor attached so  West Indies also have equal chance of winning the match only on the basis of Pakistan's unpredictability. West Indies although don't have many big names but they certainly possess two or three explosive batsmen in their ranks who can change the course of  game. Chris Gayle missed out against India due to injury so it will will be interesting to see whether he will play or not but West Indies must be keen to  play 80% fit Chris Gayle and that will give big boost to their batting line-up.  They also have to promote Keiron Pollard to No.4 and give him more overs because he is one player who can win games single-handedly. Youngster like Bravo, Edward, Russell have to support their senior pros if West Indies wants to march ahead in the tournament. Inclusion of Shivnarine Chanderpaul will bolster their batting ad they need experience in the middle-order badly.

Bowling of West Indies is quite good and they have found new teeth in Ravi Rampaul who bowled superbly against India and picked up his first 5 wicket haul. Return of Kemar Roach will certainly bolster their bowling and leg-spinner Bishoo has done well in the tournament. Only worry for the West Indies is the form of Sulieman Benn who failed to impress in entire tournament. If West Indies drop Benn from the team in crucial encounter then it will not surprise anybody and they have to drop him to accommodate Kemar Roach.

Mirpur is a venue which supports spinners because of its slow and sluggish pitch and that will give definite advantage to Pakistani spinners and West Indian batsmen looks vulnerable against the spin. So good encounter in the prospect and Pakistan will certainly go in this match with advantage.

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